JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. –
Two of the Virginia Air National Guard’s newest recruits are 17-year-old Emmanuel McClain and his mom, Tobye McMillian, who took the oath of enlistment into the VaANG from Col. Brock Lange, commander of the VaANG’s 192nd Wing, Sept. 18, 2023, at Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Hampton, Virginia.
“This is really cool,” Lange said as he prepared to administer the oath to both mother and son. “This is one of the first things I get to do as the wing commander.”
McMillian, who is rejoining the military after an 18-year break in service, will serve in the Virginia Beach-based 203rd Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineers, or RED HORSE, Squadron.
After completing Air Force Basic Military Training and technical school, McClain will serve with the Langley-based 192nd Maintenance Group.
“Every Airman is a recruiter,” Lange explained to mother and son as they joined the 192nd. “We have a team of people to get you through challenges and to work together. Always communicate with us so we can remove barriers so you guys are ready to take the fight to the enemy when you need to.”
McMillian, who currently works for the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development as a budget analyst, served 10 years in the active-duty Air Force and was stationed at Joint Base Andrews when she decided to leave the service.
“I actually got out because I was pregnant with Emmanuel,” she recalled. “I was due with him in October and I got out in August.”
McClain, who graduated from high school earlier this year, is interested in going to college to study cyber security. His work supervisor is retired from the Army and motivated him to consider joining the military to help pay for college, he explained.
Once McClain and his mom started looking into his joining the military, McMillian realized it was something she could pursue again too.
The two, who both live in White Plains, Maryland, credited VaANG recruiter Staff Sgt. Ewa Lach for making their dual enlistments happen.
“I was thinking about coming back in but I didn’t know I could,” McMillian admitted. “As he started looking into it, I began asking more questions. Then I was told there was an opportunity for me too. We weren’t thinking about doing it at the same time but Staff Sgt. Lach made it so easy that we could do it together.”
Enlisting this time was a little different for McMillian. She found herself asking more questions and paying closer attention than she did the first time she enlisted, more than 25 years ago.
“I don’t remember all this stuff last time,” she said. “I do think things have evolved and become a lot more transparent now so that you know exactly what you’re doing and where you’re going and when you’re going.
“And maybe because I’m older now and paying attention,” she laughed.
While Lach credits McMillian’s attention to detail during the process, McMillian pointed out the recruiter’s attention to detail as well.
“She’s been super thorough,” McMillian said of Lach. “I didn’t know some of the things I was signing up for originally. This time she made sure I knew and he knew what we were getting into.”
“With Tobye being a finance person, she’s very detail oriented, so I wanted to make sure she was included and updated in the process the whole time,” Lach explained.
Attention to detail is important with recruits, especially with prior service, according to Lach.
“You have to make sure you acknowledge that they were already in because they are familiar with the process and they tend to be even more in detail when their kids come in,” she said. “I want to take care of everything from A to Z so they know what to expect.”
Lach has been with the 192nd for a year and serving as a recruiter just since April. Prior to that she was in the New York Air National Guard where she served as a logistics planner and as NCOIC of the honor guard.
That experience and those connections are helping her now as a recruiter. McMillian and McClain were referred to Lach by someone she served with in New York, who is now at Joint Base Andrews.
“The Guard is one big family so it’s good to make sure we have everybody sharing good information,” she said.
In addition to a mother and son, Lach is currently working to enlist two best friends into the 192nd Wing.
“Recruiting is a lot about family and referrals so I’m glad that that’s working out,” she said. “I want to make sure someone’s first experience when they’re going in is the best it can be.”