Icemen born abroad: The Atchoe Family

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska --

Opportunity knocks wherever life leads you. Whether that be attending college, starting a family or making the decision to join the military, everyone has different dreams and aspirations. For some, it means starting a whole new life in a different country.

Staff Sgt. Francis Atchoe, a Detachment 1, 3rd Air Support Operations Squadron personnel journeyman, was pursuing his first degree at the University of Ghana and decided to take a vacation to the United States. During his six-week visit and after positive interactions with friendly people, he decided to relocate to the U.S.

“There was a lot of opportunity to be whatever I wanted to be,” said Atchoe. “I went back to Ghana and finished my degree. When that was complete, I went back to the U.S. to pursue my master’s degree.”

This decision did not come without sacrifices for Atchoe. He explained because he was not eligible for financial assistance, he worked two jobs while he attended school full-time to pay for his tuition out of pocket.

“I barely got four hours of sleep a night,” said Atchoe. “It was a difficult time, but I wanted to finish my degree and ensure I had enough school before I pursued any other options.”

During his second year of school at Clark University, an Air Force recruiter visited the campus. Atchoe was able to speak with the recruiter and even did his own research on the opportunities the Air Force provides.

“What better way to thank the country that took me in as one of their own than to join the United States Air Force?” said Atchoe. “After my schooling, I joined the Air Force and haven’t regretted the decision since.”

Atchoe’s process to join was a different experience than those who are American citizen’s experience.

“I wanted to join as an officer, but because I wasn’t a citizen yet, I had to join enlisted first and work my way up,” said Atchoe. “After I joined, I filed to become a citizen and was granted my citizenship.”

While stationed at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, a mutual friend introduced him to his now wife, Airman 1st Class Brenda Atchoe, a 354th Force Support Squadron personnel journeyman. At the time, Brenda, who is from Zimbabwe, was attending a university herself and pursuing her dream of becoming a physician.

After they got married, Brenda witnessed first-hand how the Air Force impacted Francis’ life. She fell in love with the family-oriented culture of the Air Force. For this reason, and the support of her husband, she also decided to serve her country.

Once Francis and Brenda made their way to Eielson Air Force Base, Brenda began the process of joining the world’s greatest Air Force. Gaining citizenship was important to Brenda as well, and she was able to do that when she arrived in Alaska.

“It was a dream, it really was,” said Brenda. “My parents were willing to get me to the U.S. to pursue my dreams, and gaining my citizenship was a dream come true.”

The Air Force way of life has greatly impacted the Atchoe’s lives, and they both said they wouldn’t want it any other way.

“You become the Air Force,” said Brenda. “You become the core values; you actually live by them every single day. The Air Force makes you a better person, and I always feel there is someone else out there who cares about me becoming the person I am.”

Both the Atchoe’s have a goal in mind; to become Air Force officers. Because Francis had to become a citizen before becoming an officer, he is finally able to pursue that dream.

Brenda has used Air Force Tuition Assistance to complete her bachelor’s degree. She hopes to be chosen to participate in the Nurse Enlisted Commissioning Program and serve her country as a nurse or doctor.

“The people I interact with on a daily basis are the source of my motivation,” said Francis. “The moment you talk to me, you can tell I’m not from the U.S. because of my accent, but I am not treated any differently. I am treated like family, which is something I am most proud of while serving in the Air Force.”