Nelson Tate is keeping alive a family tradition. And he brought a couple of friends along for the ride.
Tate, along with Corey Smith and Harry Williamson — best friends through their days at Richmond Senior High School (Class of 2012) and beyond — recently completed Advanced Individual Training (AIT) at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri.
All three successfully completed the mentally and physically demanding courses as combat engineers.
After completing high school, the three young men joined the military together. They attended basic training for 12 weeks from last summer. The job-specific training this summer lasted eight weeks, from Aug. 6 to Sept. 27. Tate, Smith and Williamson each hold the rank of private first class. All three were members of Company B, 35th Engineer Battalion, First Engineer Brigade.
Between summer training sessions, Tate then made his way to East Carolina University where he attended his freshman year and became a cadet in the Reserve Officer Training Corps. Due to the dates of training this summer, Tate was unable to start his sophomore year of college but he plans to start back in January.
His goal is to finish university and obtain a degree in business management. Tate is continuing the family tradition by joining the military. His step-brother and cousin have recently returned from deployments to Afghanistan and his grandfather was drafted into the U.S. Army.
Tate didn’t come back the same person he left.
Training, Tate said, “forces you to grow up. There are certain things that must be done regardless of whether you want to or not.”
Tate’s father, James Tate, could not be more proud of his son. James Tate readily spoke of his son’s unit achievements as well as accomplishments on an individual level. Tate received the Commanding General’s Excellence Award, was an honor graduate and received the highest results in the Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT).
Smith attended Richmond Community College after basic training. He intends on continuing with school in order to become an athletic trainer. His decision to join the Army stemmed from his belief that it is the responsibility of an American citizen to give back to the nation in some shape or form.
“This is my way of giving back,” Smith said. His grandfather was also part of the military and fought during WWII.
Unlike Tate and Smith, Williamson went straight into the Guard. He hopes to make a career out of the military and start active duty as soon as possible.
Williams said it was time to give back to the community. He has been given a lot in his lifetime, he said, and this is his way of saying thank you. As is the case with his two friends, Williamson come from a military background. Both of his grandfathers were in the military and fought during World War II, Korea and Vietnam.
Overall, AIT was quite the experience. Tate, Smith, and Williamson chuckled as one made a reference to the fun they had learning how to blow things up. The three stated the best part of the experience was meeting new people. Understanding where these individuals come from and learning how to work well with them was one of the most rewarding and most challenging part of the training.
This entire experience taught them the importance of honor, integrity, personal courage, and selflessness — some of the Army’s core values.