Check out the latest podcast episode Listen
BYU Today

An Army of Two

a Soldier CoupleBy Todd R. Condie, ’03

For Matt and Mandy Ellett, national security is a family matter.

WHEN a couple wears matching clothing it’s usually considered cute or tacky. Rarely does it inspire admiration and respect. But twice a week, Matt H. Ellett, ’03, and Mandy A. Ellett, ’02, do dress alike, and in green. As two of the roughly 100 students who form the Cougar Battalion of the Army ROTC, Mandy and Matt Ellett are part of a rare breed.

Both Matt and Mandy have been involved in the military since joining the National Guard in their teens. “Ever since I was about 12 or 13 years old, I’ve wanted to join the National Guard,” says Mandy, whose father and four brothers have also served in the military. “I always thought, If they can go to basic training, I want to prove that I can do it too.”

Matt and Mandy met at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, Calif., where they studied Russian and Mandarin respectively. They wrote sporadically throughout Matt’s mission to St. Petersburg, Russia, and, later, during Mandy’s stint as a schoolteacher in China. But it was only when they came to Provo that their relationship became more serious. “We agreed to train for a marathon together. When you spend that much time with someone, running every day, and all you do is talk—” Mandy begins.

“It takes you places,” Matt finishes.

Now they form the only husband-wife tandem in the BYU ROTC. Capt. Erik H. Verhoef, assistant professor of military science, says they may be one of only a handful in the country. But Matt and Mandy are special cadets regardless of their marriage, says Verhoef. In addition to participating in the ROTC and taking a full load of classes, Matt and Mandy each work 40 hours a week as translators for the National Guard.

“Mandy is really good at organizing,” Matt says. “She’s definitely the commanding officer here.”

Despite their busy schedules, neither of the two thinks their participation in the ROTC hinders them. “ROTC gives us a way to serve our country and God at the same time,” Matt explains.

Mandy agrees. “The military has given me a lot of opportunities to be a missionary. At one of our camps last summer, people would see the Brigham Young patch on my uniform and ask me questions about the gospel every single day.”

“If you are a Latter-day Saint and live the gospel, it’s known immediately,” says Matt. “In a military environment we just stand out.”

The Elletts also claim that the attitude of civilians towards the military in general has changed in recent months. “I was sitting in my car outside the supermarket when a lady came up and knocked on my window,” Mandy says. “She was standing in the pouring rain just to tell me she was grateful there are people willing to serve. Nobody ever, ever said things like that before.”

Both Matt and Mandy would like to remain in uniform for a very long time. Matt wants to become a foreign area officer but only after a few years as a tank commander. “There’s a G.I. Joe part of me. I’d like to get that out of my blood, play a little, get dirty for a while before going back to the serious stuff.”

Despite her love of the military, Mandy says she will reconsider her own options after their first baby is born in May.