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Wednesday, April 11, 2012
FROM POVERTY IN NIGERIA TO CAPT. IN U.S. AIR FORCE
Air Force Capt. George Okorodudu stands in front of one of his squadron's fuel tankers at Travis Air Force Base, Calif., Feb. 22, 2012. U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Madelyn Ottem
Face of Defense: Airman Lives His American Dream
By Air Force Airman 1st Class Madelyn Ottem
60th Air Mobility Wing
TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif., April 10, 2012 - The 60th Logistics Readiness Squadron fuels flight commander here is in the process of accomplishing his own definition of "the American dream."
Through hard work, perseverance and a bit of luck, Capt. George Okorodudu made his way from a poverty-stricken village in Nigeria to a commission in the U.S. Air Force.
The youngest of nine children, Okorodudu grew up in Lagos, Nigeria. Hunger was prevalent, and the education system was severely undeveloped, he said.
"After 12 years of school, I did not have the ability to form words with the alphabet," Okorodudu said. "My sisters had a huge Oxford dictionary. I would wake up with it and fall asleep with it until I had learned how to form words."
When he was about 23 years old, an opportunity arose that changed his life. He applied for a U.S. visa through the National Diversity Visa Program. Though coming to America seemed like an unreachable dream, he said, Okorodudu was one of 300 people in Nigeria selected to go through a screening process before being sent to the United States with green cards in 2000.
Okorodudu joined the Air Force soon after, enlisting on April 25, 2001. He said he joined the Air Force over other services because it fit his nature as a strategic thinker.
"The Air Force gave me everything," Okorodudu said. "My military training has made me a better citizen. I believe the Air Force has enabled me to positively affect several lives, and I am very grateful."
Though he is proud of his Air Force service, he said, his proudest moment occurred two years later.
"The greatest thing that happened to me occurred, Aug. 21, 2003," he said. "That's when I received my citizenship. It was a remarkable moment."
Okorodudu distinguished himself an enlisted airman. He received Airman of the Year honors, was promoted to senior airman below the zone, and earned the Leadership Award and John L. Levitow Award at Airman Leadership School, among many other accomplishments.
He finished his bachelor's degree, and was commissioned as an Air Force officer Jan. 18, 2008. Though he didn't learn to read for the first 17 years of his life, Okorodudu also earned his master's degree with a 3.9 grade point average in 2010, and he pinned on his captain bars three months ago.
The crime, poverty and illiteracy that threatened to hold Okorodudu back while he lived in Nigeria proved to be no match for his determination. Because of his background, he said, he has been able to form an unfailingly positive perspective of the opportunities America and the Air Force have provided him.
"To me, my life has improved so greatly all because of the United States Air Force, and it has provided so many opportunities," Okorodudu said. "It's just a question of applying oneself, and you can have it all."