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Service knows no borders

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Juliet Louden
  • 910th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Every day, immigrants come to the United States to seek a better life in a country full of opportunities. It is not every day someone discovers that opportunity through serving in the U.S. military. In Vienna, Ohio, a small Air Force Reserve base not only has this rarity, it has four Reserve Citizen Airmen all from nations in Africa serving within the same squadron.

Though each Airman’s story is unique, they all moved to the U.S. to make themselves and the world around them better.

“The Air Force is the best in the world, I mean the greatest, and I wanted to be part of something great,” said Senior Airman Patrick Ikua with a beaming smile. Ikua is a vehicle equipment maintenance technician assigned to the 910th Logistics Readiness Squadron.

The 910th LRS organizes and trains Reserve Citizen Airmen in the highly-specialized areas of contingency war plans, fuels operations/distribution, material management/distribution and vehicle management/operations in support of contingencies and exercises.

“Some years back there was a guy in an Air Force uniform who came to my home country of Kenya,” said Ikua. “He was there to train myself and others on disaster management. After that experience, I felt I wanted to be like him one day. When I got the opportunity to come to America I knew I had to fulfill my dream of joining the Air Force.”

Senior Airman Bernice Agyepong, a traffic management technician assigned to the 910th LRS, also speaks of the opportunities she pursued in the U.S.

“There are not a lot of opportunities in Ghana,” said Agyepong. “In the U.S. there are so many opportunities if you’re willing to take the initiative to better your life. I am always competing against myself to do better.”

Another Airman from Ghana worked tirelessly to save enough money to come to the U.S. and, since the move, has been supporting his mother and other family members in his homeland.

“I found a construction job in Ghana and used all the money I saved up to pay for my paperwork and flight to the U.S.,” said Senior Airman Joseph Essilfie, a material management technician with the 910th LRS. “My family looks to me to do something with my life and help them back home. There is nothing to go back to in Ghana, and I have to make it here in the U.S. whether I want to or not. I have to take advantage of the opportunities the U.S. has given me.”

In Ghana, joining the military can be difficult, but that did not stop Senior Airman Eric Appiah, a material management technician assigned to the 910th LRS, from finding somewhere to serve.

“To join the military in Ghana is challenging, to the point of almost being impossible,” said Appiah. “Joining the military was my childhood dream, but unfortunately I couldn’t get the opportunity until I came to the United States. When I realized I could make my dream come true in the U.S., I decided to join the Air Force Reserve to contribute to their humanitarian services and to render help to unstable countries.”

Appiah’s emphasis on humanitarian efforts is shared by his fellow Airmen.

“The support the Air Force gives to other countries is amazing,” said Ikua, pride apparent in his voice. “To be a part of enabling change is inspiring to me. I wanted to be a part of an organization that brings change to humanity.”

The sense of pride, honor and dedication to serve in the U.S. Air Force that the four Airmen hold is evident to their squadron commander, Maj. Tina Hannasch.

“All of these Airmen came from a foreign country, had to assimilate, and they are so happy and grateful to be in the United States,” said Hannasch. “I have learned from them that happiness is contagious. Their constant smiles and positive attitude make me and others around them strive to be better. They are a model of courage, resilience and bravery.”

“Being in the military is pride,” said Agyepong, with a bright smile. “Proving to myself that I can become and achieve whatever I set my mind on. I want to be able to look back years from now and say to myself and family that I defied all odds to be part of the U.S. Air Force. To know that one way or another my name and contribution has a part of the U.S. military.”

Appiah holds a sense of gratitude for being in the U.S. and serving in the Air Force.

“I feel very lucky to be here,” said Appiah. “There are so many opportunities here to better my life. With a positive attitude and resilience, you can do anything in this country.”

Ikua, with gleaming eyes, said, “It is an honor to serve in the Air Force and I will not take this opportunity I have for granted.”

This group of Airmen from African nations can be an inspiring reminder of the awesome privilege being an Airman really is. The daily grind mindset is common and their excitement to serve is a great mindset to instill.

The 910th Airlift Wing is a diverse force of Reserve Citizen Airmen from many backgrounds and walks of life and, as in this case, nations. They may have different reasons for serving, but they come together as one team to carry out the unit’s mission.

“Every day in the Air Force is memorable to me,” said Agyepong. “Being able to meet different people from different walks of life whom impact your life in many different ways. Having the opportunity and privilege to wear our uniform. Experiencing things that only a few percentage of the population ever do, is really special.”