By Al Laxamana, Fresno Recruiting BattalionDecember 29, 2008
Like many high school seniors, Megan Schlotthauer wasn't sure what she wanted to do after graduation. Her grades weren't the best, and college is expensive. That's when Schlotthauer, 17, decided to take a look at the Army Reserve.
"I was looking at the community colleges, and thought I would go there," she said. "Then I was talking to some people I know who are in the Navy Reserve, and some friends who have been in the military, and I thought that's what I wanted to do."
So, like millions of other teenagers seeking advice, she talked to her mother, Lisa Altoon, who wasn't receptive to the idea of her cheerleader daughter joining the Army.
"I was dead set against it from the beginning," she said. Altoon, like every parent, was concerned about the possibility of Megan deploying to a combat zone. That is, until she met her recruiter, Sgt. 1st Class Jessica Dean of East Bay Recruiting Company's Fremont, Calif., recruiting station. Dean proved to be one very persuasive recruiter, so much so that instead of one enlistment, there were two.
Mother and daughter enlisted in the same military occupational specialty and were both assigned to the 351st Civil Affairs Command in Mountain View, Calif.
After hearing about the opportunities available in the Army Reserve, Altoon, a postal carrier in Fremont, decided that she, too, would become a Soldier. Until recently, someone her age - 39, with no prior service - would have been too old to enlist. Since the Army increased its maximum age to 42 in 2006, however, the door was wide open. And although Altoon was originally skeptical about her daughter joining, she said being in the same Reserve unit has its advantages, too.
"I'm a mom," she said. "This will give me a chance to protect her and keep an eye on her." Schlotthauer and Altoon both said they've received some ribbing over their decisions to enlist: "The Army is a last resort." "Only ugly girls join the military."
Dean brushed off both notions as untrue.
"It's a stereotype," she said. "We want them educated. That's why we're sending them to school. And you can pick jobs other than a mechanic or working in the dirt. You can still be feminine," she added.
Altoon began basic training at Fort Jackson, S.C., in October, followed by advanced individual training at Fort Gordon, Ga., as a computer information specialist. Schlotthauer, who enlisted in the same MOS, leaves for Fort Jackson next August.
Both new Soldiers said they're aware they might be deployed in support of the Global War on Terrorism, but insist they'll be ready if and when that time comes.
"Honestly, if I'm meant to go to Iraq, I'll go to Iraq," Schlotthauer said.
Altoon, her mom - and fellow Soldier - agreed. "If it's meant for me to go, then that's what's going to happen," she said.