BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. --
As he raised his right hand, he wondered if it was worth it. He had left everything behind. His siblings, parents, wife and daughter were all back in Nigeria. Joining the U.S. Air Force Reserves meant less time spent with them. Was this really what he wanted?
Airman 1st Class Osasere Osifo, a 307th Civil Engineer Squadron operations manager, had just made the decision to enlist, and there was no going back.
“When I sat down and asked myself what was propelling me to join, I realized this was something greater than me,” he said.
Seven years ago after acquiring a bachelor’s degree in physics in Nigeria, Osifo chose to leave Nigeria to pursue a master’s degree in systems engineering in the United States. He made the difficult decision to leave his family and come to a foreign country alone to chase his dream.
“It’s definitely not easy having to leave your family,” he said. “But I wanted to travel and broaden my horizon by getting my master’s degree outside of my native country.”
Osifo said the United States and Nigeria have some similarities, but the United States has an individualistic culture, whereas Nigeria’s culture is community-based.
“Here, you respect people’s privacy and try not to intrude in your neighbor’s space,” Osifo said. “In Nigeria, your neighbors are practically your family.”
Even though he grew to fall in love with the independence of living in Dallas, Texas, Osifo longed for the interconnectedness and purpose he felt in Nigeria. The longer he lived here, the more the U.S. Air Force caught his attention with its sense of community and service.
While doing research, he stumbled upon the story of Airman 1st Class Elizabeth Jacobsen, a junior Airman of the 17th Security Forces Squadron at Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas. Right after technical school, she was killed in an explosion during a deployment to Iraq.
Jacobsen’s story inspired him greatly. It showed Osifo the true meaning of one of the U.S. Air Force’s core values: service before self.
“I saw the way the military operates,” he said. “I saw the morale, the love people show and the sacrifices the people make to keep this country safe and as one.”
Osifo didn’t want to sacrifice his civilian job as a cyberspace engineer. He also knew that enlisting would mean time away from his family in Nigeria. However, he wanted to serve and be part of the Air Force family. He could also become a citizen in his newfound home if he joined the military. This meant he could vote, which was another duty that was important to him.
“Being able to contribute to the country I love, that I’ve come to call home, was a driving factor in my decision,” Osifo said.
Osifo enlisted in the Air Force Reserves in July 2019. After a year, he was able to acquire his citizenship in this country he now calls home.
“It’s a very easy process,” he said. “As long as you have someone to help you push your documents out, it’s seamless.”
Regular applications can take months, even years, to be processed. Osifo acquired his full citizenship in less than a month. Because of his decision, he will be able to vote in the 2020 presidential election. Additionally, because he was a service member, Osifo’s application fee of over $700 was waived.
Osifo said he will keep serving in the future. Because he is now a citizen, he plans on becoming an officer. That option was not available to him beforehand due to the citizenship requirement. He is also currently three classes away from completing his master’s degree in systems engineering at the University of Texas at Dallas.
Osifo is proud to call the United States his home. He says that he values being part of a family where everybody plays a part in keeping each other safe.
“You have these people who are not looking to gain, but looking for what they, themselves, can offer to this country,” he said.