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Perseverance: From Poverty in Nigeria to U.S. Airman

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Zachary Willis
  • 22nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. – The United States Air Force is comprised of a diverse array of men and women from all walks of life, each with their own unique journey and perspective to add to their Air Force career. This is Ganiyu's story.

Senior Airman Ganiyu Alimi is a vehicle maintenance apprentice in the 22nd Logistics Readiness Squadron, but that is not where he started his journey. Alimi and his family came to America from Ogun, Nigeria, nearly seven years ago dreaming of a better life filled with opportunity.

Alimi was thrilled to be in the states, but immigrating was just the start of his journey. He was about to face a new set of challenges. Life in America was a drastic change from anything he had ever known.

Luxuries and amenities, such as plumbing, are usual to most Americans. However, the money they cost can be a challenge for someone who just migrated halfway across the globe from extreme poverty. Alimi had to adapt to support his family financially.

“Back home, I lived in an area of high crime and poverty,” said Alimi. “In order to get water for my family, I would have to travel to a well and carry it back to them every day.”

For Alimi, the comfort of having running water was a welcome replacement to the daily struggle of walking to get it himself, but the monthly bill that replaced it meant Alimi had to get to work to provide for his family.

Alimi started working at Walmart, L.W. Clapp Golf course, driving for Uber and Lyft all while going to school; just trying to support his family and continue his education.

“When I moved to the states, I was working three jobs while also attending Wichita State University for my master's degree,” said Alimi. “It wasn't a very good life for me or my family.”

While Alimi completed his degree, he saw military members coming in and out of his workplaces, and he would talk to them about their experiences in the Air Force. He knew he wanted to have a life similar to theirs, so he drove his wife by McConnell Air Force Base to see how she felt about him joining. She said she had no intention of ever being without her husband again, she told Ganiyu “no.”

Alimi's amazement for the Air Force never stopped growing. He was eventually able to convince his wife that this was life for them. After completing his degree in mechanical engineering, he went to a recruiter and enlisted in the Air Force.

“Joining the U.S. Air Force was the greatest decision of my life,” said Alimi. "I love what I do. I’m a mechanic and I love working with my hands.”

While enlisting in the Air Force has been the opportunity of a lifetime in Alimi's eyes, he hasn't forgotten the journey that led him to the life he has today.

“Looking back, working those jobs made me stronger, reliable, and dependable,” said Alimi. “It also helped me to appreciate [the Air Force] and not to take it for granted. I can spend more time with my family and still go out and help my community.”

After Alimi's long search to find his place in this world where he loves what he does, he is looking forward to a long career in the military and plans to continue his education by pursuing a PhD hoping to gain further applicable knowledge to his career field. He is also an active member of the local community. In his free time, he enjoys giving back through volunteer work: collecting and giving away baby items at the Victory House, and working with Habitat for Humanity building homes.

“Considering where I came from to coming here, I couldn’t be happier,” said Alimi. “I just want to challenge myself to do better every day.”

Each person faces struggles in life, but in the case of Airman Alimi, he overcame, set goals, and pushed forward, eventually obtaining his degree and joining the U.S. Air Force. His perseverance and resiliency have made Airman Alimi who he is, and because of it he makes the Air Force better every day.