When Statesboro native Sergeant First Class Angie Gayle Shatteen-Washington took off her boots following the retirement ceremony in September, she’d served her country for 24 years. Not necessarily that unusual for many in the military. However, what was different in her case was that she didn’t lace up her boots for the first time until she was 34 years old and was the mother of two young sons.
Her outstanding, decorated military career was actually a second career. SFC Shatteen-Washington left Georgia Southern University with just two quarters remaining of her Fashion Merchandising Degree, after marrying Andre’ Washington and was a military spouse for nine-and-a-half years. Her now ex-husband joined the Army and the two journeyed to Germany as his first duty station.
Shatteen-Washington, who has three brothers, remembers lying in the grass as a child in the back yard with her younger brother David, looking at the sky and spotting plane contrails. “I’m leaving Statesboro one day on an airplane,” she said she told him numerous times.
Though only about 9 at the time, she had no idea that would actually happen to her. Shatteen-Washington said she enjoyed living in Germany.
“It didn’t take me long to get a job there,” Shatteen-Washington said. “My family instilled a strong work ethic in us. We grew up working in tobacco since we were wee-high. Daddy sharecropped, and he was a construction worker. Mama did retail and owned her own daycare.”
Shatteen-Washington said that following the tobacco work as a younger child, she worked at K-Mart during college.
“In Germany, I started out as a volunteer with the Red Cross that led to other jobs. God was mapping it out. I even had a college friend and her husband stationed in the same place, Aschaffenburg, Germany.”
When her then-husband returned to the states for the next duty station in Augusta, Shatteen-Washington lived with her parents in Statesboro long enough to complete her college degree.
Interest in the military
Andre’ Washington was again assigned to Germany, so Shatteen-Washington decided to return to the states and live in Savannah in order to make use of her college degree. She worked first for a conglomerate of Rich’s and then later in a managerial position at Walmart.
“By now, I was a single mom of two boys. I’d thought of joining the military earlier, but at that time, the early 80s, it was discouraged for husband and wife with children, both being in the military,” she said.
“I happened to see a special on television about women in the military on my day off from work,” she continued. “These women were trying to get across the water on a rope, and they kept falling off. I found myself cheering for them in my living room.”
Shatteen-Washington said she grew up as an athletic person, playing softball at Statesboro Parks and Recreation and played volleyball and ran track.
With a laugh, she added, “Then my mom said I had to do some girl stuff. So, I took ballet, tap, jazz, and twirling.”
She went on to participate in the first Black Cotillion, where young Black ladies are presented to society. She also competed in a pageant and was selected as Queen of Statesboro for one year. She was invited to attend Miss Black Teen America, but opted not to participate in the pageant.
She remembers with pride being one of the first to receive an achievement patch for the Presidential Youth Fitness Program when she was a student at Marvin Pittman.
Joining the military
The television show spotlighting women in the military brought back her desire to join the military, and she thought, “I can do that.”
“I took myself to school every night, studying the military aptitude test program, and when I felt ready, I went to a recruiter. My brother, Larry, who was a Marine for 28 years when he retired, took leave to come help me train for boot camp.”
Shatteen-Washington admits that the hardest part of joining the military was leaving her boys behind. Andre Ryan Washington, who is a chef and lives in Oklahoma with his family, was 8at the time, and Ian Washington, who is a supervisor at a sandwich shop and lives in Macon with his family, was 3. The boys stayed with their dad.
“I sometimes say Andre’ took off his boots, and I put mine on,” said Shatteen-Washington.
SFC Washington attended both Basic Training and Advanced Individual Training at Ft. Jackson, SC, graduating with honors from both schools for achieving the highest physical fitness scores and receiving the military physical fitness patch.
“Me, four-foot, 11 and the oldest one there,” said Shatteen-Washington with a laugh. “When that bus drove up to the building [for boot camp], me – a fashion merchandising major with no make-up and no lipstick, I thought, ‘Oh, gosh, what have I done?’”
SFC Washington excelled at each step along the way, that included tours of duty in Fort Campbell, Kentucky; Yongsan, Korea; Daegue, Korea; Lawton, Oklahoma; Baghdad, Iraq; Dublin, California, and recently retired from the Integrated Pay and Personnel System-Army Program, a position with the Pentagon.
“God let me know I had a mission. He let me know, ‘You can do this.’ I knew the benefits and pluses of the military, I knew I wanted to do something truly meaningful, to make a difference, and I said to God, ‘If you take me through it, I’ll let you order my steps.’”
While she served in Korea, SFC Washington completed a Masters Degree in Human Resources Management through the University of Phoenix.
Shatteen-Washington recently returned to Statesboro to catch up with family and friends. Her father and step-mother reside in Statesboro, and brothers CPT (Ret) Larry Shatteen, United States Marine Corp and David Shatteen (Ret) Georgia Port Authority. Her mother passed away in 1992 and her brother Levon passed away in 2016.
SFC Washington loved her time in the military and said that most of the soldiers called her Mama Wash, often asking for advice or assistance or just a listening ear. “I had pride in my job, and I loved helping Soldiers, helping people develop to their highest potential.
“God has been my Commander-in-Chief, and he ordered my footsteps into the military and all the way through to retirement. Joining the military was the change that catapulted my life and my successful military career. To God be the Glory!”