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A Kenyan’s road to becoming an American Airman

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

Senior Airman Patrick Ikua grew up in Kenya. He says that poverty, the threat of terrorism and an uncertain future were all part of his experience as a young man in a developing nation. But the U.S. Air Force completely changed the trajectory of his life.

While still in his home country at the age of 17, Ikua was trained by members of the U.S. Air Force. The visiting Airmen were on a mission to help educate and train Kenyans in disaster management in the event of a major incident such as an act of terrorism.

“I felt I wanted to be like them one day,” said Ikua. “The support the Air Force gives to other countries, enabling change within them, this inspired me a lot. I wanted to be part of an organization that brings change to humanity.”

The training Ikua received was not the only presence he had seen of the U.S. Air Force in helping the people of Kenya. Due to the government instability and terrorist groups in the region of Africa where Kenya is located, there are security and terrorism issues in the country.

“Growing up in Kenya, we have a U.S. military base there,” said Ikua. “Every now and then you get to see them helping out in times of terrorism, trying to prevent terrorism, and that makes me feel like the impact they have on the universe, not just even the U.S. They are not just fighting terrorism in their own county, but countries like Kenya as well.”

Ikua’s journey to becoming a part of the U.S. Air Force was not easy and proved to be a long process due to his emigration from Kenya.

“When meeting with the recruiter, I learned the process of what it took to join the Air Force, being a foreigner,” said Ikua. “It is a long process due to security and background checks. It took me almost two years to get in. There were times I almost wanted to give up and was second-guessing my decisions.”

Part of Ikua’s decision to stay the course was due to the constant support and understanding of his recruiter, Master Sgt. Jason Corradi. Corradi grew up in a violent area of Cleveland, Ohio, and could relate to the plight of Ikua and others who come from unstable areas. They share a common perspective that military service is an opportunity that can offer a way out of challenging life circumstances.

“Talking to Ikua, I could see we had similar paths,” said Corradi. “I wanted to help this guy. I knew if he was given a chance he would succeed. The Air Force would give Ikua an opportunity to pursue something greater than himself, a chance to prove himself and a better opportunity to change his and his family’s life.”

Ikua was grateful for the steadfast encouragement and individual attention he received from Corradi.

“He kept me close and called me frequently,” said Ikua. “This gentleman cares a lot about me. He made me feel like this is the place I want to be, a place where people care. I was never just a number to him.”

In Ikua’s civilian and military career goals, he focuses on helping others.

“I have two career paths that allow me to help others in different capacities,” said Ikua. “I am pursuing a degree in nursing. I had taken my son to the hospital and was touched by the care the nurses were giving him. I decided I would like to do the same for somebody else. I want to help someone else and help my son.”

On the military side, Ikua is a vehicle maintainer, assigned to the 910th Logistics Readiness Squadron. He works on various vehicles and machines to help keep Youngstown Air Reserve Station running.

“If you need a mechanic, you have one, and if you need a nurse, you have one as well,” said Ikua. “Even when you are in the field or anything else, I am able to provide help in two different ways. Having the flexibility and diversity in career fields, I can help people in more ways than one.”

Corradi described Ikua as someone who would always help another in need.

“Always willing to sacrifice his own wants and needs to help others, and that is his character,” said Corradi. “The Air Force is lucky to have someone like him serving within their ranks.”

Likewise, Ikua feels very lucky and grateful to be serving in the Air Force and be a U.S. citizen with the help of airmen within the 910th LRS.

“I am happy to be an American right now,” said Ikua. “This country has given me a lot to be proud of and I am happy the Air Force helped me with getting my citizenship in order. I don’t even feel like I have given enough back; I should give more back to this country. I now live in a peaceful society, my child goes to school and doesn’t have to worry about if she will be able to go. If I still lived in Kenya I wonder if I would even be alive today.”

Another part of the U.S. Ikua greatly appreciates is the freedoms he has experienced here compared to his homeland.

“The freedoms I enjoy here in America are very different from what I had in Kenya,” said Ikua. “Most people wonder why I am talking about freedoms here, but as somebody who was born on a different continent, you are able to differentiate between the freedoms here to the ones missing in Kenya. I am able to go to work, come home, and see my family and they are happy.”

Ikua has also experienced a difference in opportunities between his old home and his current one.

“I am able to take any opportunity that comes my way,” said Ikua. “I am able to take the opportunity, and if I work hard, I will see the positive outcome of it. As opposed to in Kenya, one might work extremely hard and doesn’t see anything from it. That is a real freedom of opportunity I enjoy here in the U.S.”

Ikua searched for opportunity and found it as an Air Force Reservist, a title he considers it an honor to carry.

“The U.S. Air Force is the best in the whole world, I mean the greatest and I wanted to be part of something great,” said Ikua. “It is an opportunity that someone cannot take for granted.’