LAUGHLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- It was a typical sunny and hot day at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas when Airman 1st Class Gaddiel Acquaah, a 47th Operations Support Squadron aerospace physiology technician, walked outside to a surprise.
A car caravan slowly, yet loudly, made its way toward the Aerospace Operational Physiology Training Unit’s building, loud patriotic music, cheers and car-honking filled the air.
The native of Cape Coast, Ghana, received his citizenship through serving in the Air Force--a process that’s been in the works for two years.
“It was such a big surprise,” Acquaah said. “I couldn’t stop smiling and thanking those who drove by to congratulate me. I remember someone gave me a U.S. flag, and I waved it proudly.”
Acquaah’s road to citizenship certainly wasn’t without hardships.
“I had to be in the [Delayed Entry Program] for about a year,” Acquaah said. “Being in a new environment was kind of a struggle, I had to not only learn about American culture but the Air Force as well.”
Apart from the tremendous support Acquaah received from friends and family, he was given meaningful advice from his recruiter, who mentored him along the way.
“I was able to understand and acclimate better to the situation I was in because of my recruiter and friends that were already in the service,” Acquaah said. “He made sure I understood the process and gave me the time and attention to ask questions.”
For Acquaah, enlisting was a two-way street--a chance to obtain citizenship through serving his adopted country’s air force while receiving education and medical benefits. He sees himself earning a master’s degree in economics with those benefits.
“Other armed forces agencies didn’t have what I was looking for,” Acquaah said. “I felt the Air Force would help me most in striving towards my academic goals.”
“My passion for economics came from my upbringing in a third-world country,” he said. “There are programs that are made to help third world countries get back on their feet. Learning more about economics will give me the tools to help people in Africa.”
Acquaah plays an important role in Laughlin’s mission of training future combat aviators. He instructs pilots and aircrew members on how to expertly handle any in-flight emergencies and teaches them the physiological effects flying has on their bodies. But when he’s not training student pilots, he reconnects with his roots by playing soccer with his fellow Airmen.
“Soccer is very big where I come from,” he said. “It gave me a sense of ‘home’ when I found out there are Airmen I can connect with and play a sport that means a lot to me.”
The amount of support he receives from his flight when he’s away from his family is substantial, said Acquaah. They ensure he’s given the time and care to not only grow into an outstanding Airman, but also better understand his vital role in today’s Air Force.
“It's a big family,” he said. “If you meet the right people, you’re going to enjoy it. I know I’ve met the right people because my flight is awesome. They understand where I come from and I'm very comfortable around them because they are very supportive of my goals and aspirations.”