Face of Defense: Uncle Re-enlists Nephew in Afghanistan

KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan — Ser­vice mem­bers who re-enlist dur­ing deploy­ments rarely are for­tu­nate enough to have fam­i­ly join in on their spe­cial occa­sion. Army Spc. Justin Slater is among the lucky few.

Retired Army Maj. Michael R. Pan­dol admin­is­ters the oath of re-enlist­ment to his nephew, Army Spc. Justin Slater, on Kan­da­har Air­field, Afghanistan, Oct. 15, 2011.
U.S. Army pho­to by Sgt. Thomas Duval
Click to enlarge

On Oct. 15, Slater stood on a con­stant­ly shift­ing grav­el road on a balmy Sat­ur­day evening here next to his uncle, Michael R. Pan­dol, a heli­copter pilot for a gov­ern­ment con­trac­tor and retired Army major, to recite the oath. “I knew I was com­ing up on my re-enlist­ment win­dow, and I thought, ‘Why not have my uncle read the oath?’ ” said Slater, a nodal net­work sys­tem oper­a­tor with the 176th Sig­nal Com­pa­ny, Brigade Troops Bat­tal­ion, 1st Stryk­er Brigade Com­bat Team, 25th Infantry Divi­sion. “This is one of the great­est hon­ors of my life.”

“I came in the Army as an enlist­ed sol­dier, served as a chief war­rant offi­cer, I’ve worn oak leaves, and I have served for over 21 years,” Pan­dol said. “Our fam­i­ly has a spe­cial con­nec­tion to the uni­form, and I could­n’t be proud­er of my nephew.”

Slater said his uncle played a huge role in his deci­sion to join the Army in 2008, and has con­tin­ued to men­tor him since he deployed to south­ern Afghanistan ear­li­er this year, where Pan­dol also works.

Pan­dol, 51, said he was some­what of a mav­er­ick in his day. Dur­ing his mil­i­tary ser­vice, the Key West native excelled as an Apache heli­copter pilot with the 229th Attack Heli­copter Reg­i­ment.

Slater, 21, took a dif­fer­ent approach as he joined the Sig­nal Corps.

Regard­less of which path Slater chose to serve, his uncle said, he’s just excit­ed to keep the fam­i­ly line of mil­i­tary ser­vice going.

Pan­dol said his nephew is just one in a long line of fam­i­ly mem­bers to raise his right hand. The Pan­dol and Slater fam­i­lies have served in the mil­i­tary for more than four gen­er­a­tions, he not­ed.

“I’m proud to be a part of a long fam­i­ly line,” Slater said.

The fam­i­ly line cur­rent­ly has sol­diers spread through­out Afghanistan, with cousins and nephews in Qalat, Hel­mand and Kan­da­har provinces.

Pan­dol said he is very proud of his nephews, cousins and his son, who is serv­ing in Hel­mand, one of the most dan­ger­ous provinces in Afghanistan.

He added that it’s the ser­vice of those like his son and nephew who choose to serve in the mil­i­tary that gives Amer­i­ca the No. 1 fight­ing force in the world.

Slater said he hopes to fol­low in his uncle’s foot­steps to become a war­rant offi­cer and make a career of the Army.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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