Face of Defense: Army Service Reunites Military Cousins
JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. --
Nathaniel Layton grew up in Greenville, Tennessee, just a half-hour away from Knoxville, Tennessee, where his cousin, Patrick May, lived.
Although the two only met once growing up, today they are closer than ever and owe their chance to grow together, personally and professionally, to the Army.
Coming from a long line of military members, both men had a feeling they would end up joining the military in one capacity or another.
Now an Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 assigned to the 97th Transportation Company, 7th Transportation Brigade here, Layton works as a chief engineer on a Landing Craft Utility vessel.
Furthermore, May, a Chief Warrant Officer 5, works as the chief maritime qualification director for the Office of the Chief of Transportation here. The two never imagined they would end up working together in the watercraft field.
“I was an aviation mechanic in the U.S. Marine Corps and loved everything about it,” Layton said. “In 1995, they gave the choice of two different careers to cross-train into, but I knew that I wouldn’t enjoy working in them. I knew getting out was the best way to go.”
Joining the Army
After ending his service in the Marine Corps, Layton started his own contracting business. While working in the civilian sector for 15 years, his cousin worked his way up the ranks in the Army.
When the economy declined in the early 2000s, Layton joined the Army.
“I missed the Marine Corps the whole time I was out,” Layton said. “The first day I put the uniform back on, it felt like I had never left.”
With a few years already under his belt, Layton knew he was ready to apply for a warrant officer position. While confiding in his father about this decision, his father told him to reach out to his cousin, Pat, who was already a warrant officer.
Getting in contact with May was one of the best things that he did to jump-start his warrant officer career, Layton said. May helped Layton get his foot in the door, and soon after, he was on his way to Warrant Officer Candidate School at Fort Rucker, Alabama.
“I suggested joining the watercraft field,” May said. “I knew Nate would be the perfect fit for the job.”
For both the soldiers, being a mariner runs through their veins. They attribute their love of the water to their ancestors, who were known as the King’s Watermen in medieval England.
“I sometimes wonder if our gravitation toward the field goes back to our past,” May said. “If not, it certainly is quite the coincidence.”
From day one on the job, May noted he was a natural on the water. Whether sailing boats or fixing them, he had a knack for watercraft, a military occupational specialty he chose when he enlisted in the Army after high school.
“I saw the video of the watercraft field in the recruiter’s office and thought it would be a cool job,” May said. “I fell in love with the mission; the boats, the traveling. And, 33 years later, I’m still here.”
This series of events led to the two soldiers being stationed together at Fort Eustis, where the primary mission is transportation.
Now sharing the same mission, Layton and May spend time together often, either helping each other in their field or just bonding over remodeling a kitchen.
“I consider Pat one of my biggest mentors, in and out of work,” Layton said. “He’s been a warrant officer for most of his career and he’s an expert in his field. Outside of work, he’s there for me 24/7 and vice versa. It’s great knowing you have family close by.”
Both men suggest young service members continuously seek out mentors throughout their careers. Even as the most senior vessel director, May said he wouldn’t be as successful without the people he leans on every day.
Creeping up to his retirement and with two trips around the world on his resume, May says he’s ready to pass his legacy on to Layton.
Although they didn’t share much growing up, now, through their shared service, the cousins continue to keep the nation’s waters and citizens safe by serving on the Army’s most versatile vessels.