Naturalized Airman – From Struggles to Stripes
By Senior Airman Alexandria Lee, 100 Air Refueling Wing
/ Published November 27, 2019
RAF Mildenhall, Emgland -- This story is one of a four-part series on Airmen who gained or will gain their citizenship through service in the U.S. Air Force.
The future is an exciting idea for many young people, to see if they can achieve their dreams and reach every goal they’ve made.
U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Micheal Ayitiah, 100th Maintenance Squadron crew chief, was 24 when he emigrated to where he thought he could achieve his dream– America.
“Two things I knew I wanted when I came to America were my education and to join the military,” said Ayitiah. “I moved from Accra, Ghana, when I was a little bit older. I wanted to see if I could be a part of the American dream of safety, stability, and success. So when the opportunity came for me to further my education in the United States, I jumped at the chance.
“I came to pursue the hardware aspect of computer science,” he explained. “I love to work with my hands. School gave me an opportunity to do what I wanted and experience different things. In Accra, what they told me to do was the path they expected me to follow. When I got here, there were so many choices and I could do anything I wanted.”
A benefit the newcomer received from his college was the exchange program, which helps students from other countries to get together and help each other integrate into their new home.
“It was a huge culture shock coming to the States that I couldn’t have prepared myself for,” stated Ayitiah. “It was a huge advancement in technology and different socially. I felt like I didn’t have a voice because I wasn’t from around there,” sighed the young scholar. “I felt like I wasn’t knowledgeable enough about how things go socially and culturally. The student community really helped guide me in understanding myself and with time and knowledge, I began to better understand where I was. I felt welcomed, and they accepted me for being different.”
“I wasn’t alone for very long after I left home, being the oldest of four - most of my siblings followed soon afterward. We all grew up with the idea of America. We all had friends or other family members that had already moved or were transitioning themselves. I thought I was ready, my time had come.”
Ayitiah felt secure leaving home, and believed he was prepared.
“I never had much guilt leaving home. As a man and oldest sibling I was the blueprint for my family, a ‘stepping stone’ for them to see if I can, then you can,” described Ayitiah. “I knew I needed to leave. I wanted to leave and not look back, only toward the future.”
After attending college for a while, finances became a struggle for Ayitiah.
“I came originally for school but after a while, I couldn’t afford the following years, so I left school and moved to join my sister in Oklahoma– that’s where life really began for me, in Oklahoma City,” remarked Ayitiah.
“I found a good job. I met my wife, and a house and kids. I found my home away from home. There was a huge Ghanaian community in Oklahoma, I always had someone to lean on if I ever needed it.”
Throughout his journey the new father and husband always had aspirations to join the military.
“I grew up watching the American military on television, I’ve always wanted to join,” said Ayitiah. “It was something I wanted to be a part of.
“It took me 12 years to come to where I could be able to join the military. I had a family and that was a key factor in my ability to stay or go. My wife encouraged me to fulfill my dream and every day I’m happy.”
Ayitiah joined right at the cusp of the age limit, 39, to become a crew chief for the KC-135 Stratotanker.
“I do my dream job every day. It was everything I thought it would be. As a crew chief we are constantly working with our hands and that’s what I’ve always wanted to do. I love planes, fixing them and working on them. I get to play with big toys every day, this is my dream job.”
For the crew chief, he believed being able to fulfill his childhood dream of coming to America and joining the military has overshadowed any setbacks he’s had.
“Being a part of the military, I’m able to fulfill my dreams. I wake up happy every day. I have no regrets and I’ve gained so much since coming to America. I’m so thankful that someone like me from a different country can come here and be a part of the world’s greatest Air Force, and I’m here to give my all to this nation.”