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Face of Defense: Mother, Daughter Enlist in Army Reserve

By Al Laxamana
Special to American Forces Press Service

FRESNO, Calif., Dec. 31, 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.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Megan Schlotthauer, left, and her mother, Lisa Altoon, enlisted together in the Army Reserve. U.S. Army photo by Al Laxamana

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Searching for a purpose, the 17-year-old decided to explore her options in 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."

She presented the idea to her mother, Lisa Altoon, who wasn't receptive to the notion of her cheerleader daughter joining the Army.

"I was dead set against it from the beginning," she said.

Altoon, like many parents, was concerned about the possibility of Megan deploying to a combat zone. That is, until she met her daughter’s recruiter, Army Sgt. 1st Class Jessica Dean of the Fremont, Calif., recruiting station. Dean proved to be a persuasive recruiter.

After learning about the Army Reserve, Altoon, a postal carrier in Fremont, decided that she, too, would become a soldier. Until recently, someone her age 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 for the 39-year-old.

Mother and daughter enlisted in the same military occupational specialty -- computer information specialist -- and were assigned to the same unit, the 351st Civil Affairs Command in Mountain View, Calif.

Though Altoon originally was skeptical about her daughter joining, she said being in the same Reserve unit has its advantages.

"I'm a mom," she said. "This will give me a chance to protect her and keep an eye on her."

Altoon began basic training at Fort Jackson, S.C., in October, followed by advanced individual training at Fort Gordon, Ga., to train as a computer specialist. Schlotthauer leaves for Fort Jackson in August.

Both soldiers said they're aware they might be deployed in support of the global war on terrorism, but insist they'll be ready if that time comes.

"Honestly, if I'm meant to go to Iraq, I'll go to Iraq," Schlotthauer said.

Her mother, and now her fellow soldier, agreed. "If it's meant for me to go, then that's what's going to happen," Altoon said.

(Al Laxamana serves in the Fresno Recruiting Battalion.)

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U.S. Army Reserve

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