McConnell Melting Pot: Airman serves to give back

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Rachel Waller
  • 22nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
(Editor's note: This is the first article in a series about the diverse climate at McConnell Air Force Base)

McConnell Air Force Base is a melting pot of cultures, languages, races, ethnicities, knowledge and genders.

In other words, Team McConnell's population is the epitome of diversity.

The Air Force defines diversity as a composite of individual characters, experiences, and abilities consistent with the Air Force Core Values and the Air Force mission.

"Diversity is often equated to minority, but it's more than that - diversity is a reflection of what makes us unique, and it fuels our Air Force and our nation," wrote Gen. Darren W. McDew, Air Mobility Command commander, in a February 2015 commentary.  "The Air Force has a rich heritage built on the pillars of diversity and innovation."

One such pillar is Airman 1st Class Bernice Yunwe Kwasinyui, 22nd Logistics Readiness Squadron aircraft parts store technician.

Yunwe Kwasinyui was born in Mbem, Cameroon located in Central Africa.

"My village was a small community where you know almost everybody by name, and it had very friendly people," said Yunwe Kwasinyui.

The Airman explained that growing up her family wasn't well off financially.

"I did not grow up in a wealthy home," she said. "Life was not all that easy, but we were and still are a very happy family, always hoping for the best."
According to, Cameroon has an estimated population of 20 million people and schooling is mandatory for children six to 14 years. Once children are ready to move on to secondary school, most parents can't afford the fees and children are often pulled from school. Most of the populace works in agriculture while very few continue education. 

Fortunately for Yunwe Kwasinyui, her mother ensured all of her children graduated high school. In September 2011, Yunwe Kwasinyui decided to enter a training program to become a nursery and primary educator.    

In that same year, her older sister, Doris Fanyui Rowely, entered Yunwe Kwasinyui in the U.S. Visa Lottery, a program that allows people from countries with extremely low immigration rates to immigrate to America.

"My sister had signed me up for the opportunity to receive a visa to come to the United States," she said.  "I didn't want to do it because I didn't have the money and a lot of people sign up for the chance to get those visas so I didn't think my chances were good."

But Yunwe Kwasinyui's chances were better than she thought, and she won the chance to live in the U.S.

"I was very anxious and scared to leave my family to [move to] a place where I'd meet different people with a different lifestyle, actually, a different everything," said the young Airman.  "I had mixed feelings leaving my family and friends, yet I was happy to come and explore all the good things America has to offer."

By July 2012, she was living in America. Yunwe Kwasinyui said she remembered being "wowed" by America when she arrived.

"I could not stop staring at everything," she recalled. "I was impressed with all the good roads and sky scrapers, which are not found in my village."

After being in the U.S. for a few months, Yunwe Kwasinyui decided to join the Air Force in 2013, she said so she could give back to the nation that gave her an opportunity to live a different life.

Although luck was on her side coming here, she ran into some challenges along the way, she said.

"My biggest challenge was when I had to go basic [military] training," Yunwe Kwasinyui said. "I had to work so hard to get in. Coming from a different country, the process was a little bit hard, but my recruiter was so awesome. He helped me. He walked me through the process so well. I'm very glad my sister pushed me to take this chance."

While Yunwe Kwasinyui was in basic training she decided to get her American citizenship.

"Who doesn't want to be a citizen in one of the greatest nations in the world?" exclaimed the Cameroon native. "Getting my citizenship was one of the requirements I needed to fully do my job, which is very important to me because I did not want to have any limitations to complete my job and the Air Force's mission."

Since arriving to McConnell AFB, Yunwe Kwasinyui has found another way to give back to the country that has done so much for her.

"One day I thought I was alone in the office, and I was the only one left, so I started singing out loud," Yunwe Kwasinyui remembered. "After that, my supervisor came in and asked if I was the one singing. I told her that I love to sing and do it anytime I have the opportunity."

Yunwe Kwasinyui said her supervisor suggested she try out to sing the national anthem during ceremonies across base.

Soon after, the pride in Yunwe Kwasinyui's voice could be heard as she belted out the lyrics to "The Star Spangled Banner" during official ceremonies.

"She sings beautifully, and when she does, it's obvious the anthem means something to her," said Maj. Aaron Stark, 22nd Air Refueling Wing chief of flight safety, in an email. "She's an incredible Airman and has had an amazing impact on the base already in such a short time here."

Yunwe Kwasinyui received her citizenship in 2013 and speaks to her family as often as she can, updating them on her life as an American citizen as she continues to serve the nation that gave her endless opportunities.

(Editors note: Senior Airman Trevor Rhynes contributed to this article)