New Beginnings: A Reservist’s journey from Ghana to the U.S.

  • Published
  • By By Senior Airman Kalee Sexton
  • 913th Airlift Group

When Akorfa Eyram Akua Domey was six years old, she said goodbye to her dad as he left Ghana for the United States. She didn’t know that 12 years would pass before she would see him again. 

“My dad had won the U.S. visa lottery,” Domey, now 20, said. “The visa covered the whole family, but at the time, we didn’t have the money to move everyone over.”

After receiving his visa in 2007, her father, Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Lambert Domey, moved to the U.S. to set down roots while he saved up money to move his family. He first went to Washington state before moving to Conway, Arkansas, in 2009. From there, he felt called to serve his new country, and joined Fighter Squadron Composite Twelve in the U.S. Navy Reserve.

The family was able to move to the U.S. in the spring of 2019, and Domey enrolled in classes at the University of Central Arkansas. To help pay for the tuition, she decided to follow in her father’s footsteps and join the U.S. Air Force Reserve. 

“My dad tried to get me to join the Navy,” she said, laughing. “But I thought the Air Force would be better.”

She is now part of the Development and Training Flight at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, while she awaits a date to leave for Basic Military Training. The D&TF helps prepare Reservists for BMT, focusing on physical fitness, basic drill movements and curriculum such as the Air Force Song, the Airman’s Creed and Air Force history, while allowing trainees to begin integrating into the unit. After BMT, Domey will go to technical training school to become an Air Transportation specialist with the 96th Aerial Port Squadron within the 913th Airlift Group. 

“When I was young, I wanted to work in an airport. I wanted to be a pilot or a stewardess,” she said. “Air Transportation could give me the chance to work in an airport one day, plus it sounds interesting to make sure everything is on board the plane.”

While she was living in Ghana, Domey and her brother, now 13, and sister, now 17, grew close to their mother. In fact, her brother had never even met their father; Domey’s mom was pregnant when her husband left for the U.S. Reuniting as a family was strange at first, Domey said.

“I didn’t call him ‘Dad’ when we first got here,” she said. “It felt too weird.”

Now, though, after two years, the whole family enjoys being together, whether they are playing tennis, watching movies or cooking. 

“We all cook together and make food from Ghana,” she said. In fact, Domey said getting used to American food has been the biggest adjustment for her since moving to the U.S.

“I’ve never had mac and cheese or mashed potatoes,” she said, laughing. 

Prior to starting college classes, when she worked as a pharmacy technician, she told her coworkers that she had never tried tacos. Needless to say, they were shocked.

“After work, they took me to go get tacos. … They tasted great, like ‘where have you been my whole life?’” she said.

In the meantime, Domey is working toward a degree in computer science, something her high school experience in Ghana set her up for. She attended a private boarding school in Accra, the capital of the West African country, and lived in the student dorms on campus.

Students there are expected to choose an area of study prior to starting high school. 

“You can pick from science, general arts, visual arts and business,” Domey said. “Then you take classes in that subject as well as general classes.”

The area of concentration is a long-term decision, essentially locking in a degree plan for college.

“For example, if you pick art in high school, you can’t study medicine in college,” she said. 

Domey chose to study science in high school, putting her ahead of the academic curve when she arrived in Arkansas. Even now that she’s in college, she said, some of the curriculum is what she learned in her classes in Ghana. 

Her high school experience also set her up for success in BMT. Students who lived in the dorms were expected to wake up at 3 a.m. on the weekdays to clean their living space before heading to class. Much like in BMT, the dorm residents were assigned different tasks, such as cleaning the bathrooms.

“Waking up early doesn’t bother me since I’m already used to that,” she said. “I am a little nervous about being yelled at, though.”

After she finishes her degree, Domey plans to move to Minnesota to be with her new husband. The two were married in March after having dated for four years. The pair met while they were in school in Ghana, and he moved to the U.S. in December 2018.

“Dating isn’t allowed in high school, so I didn’t tell my mom about the relationship; she thought we were just friends,” Domey said. 

To her surprise, her parents approved of him and were happy to hear about their marriage. Domey said she will travel to Little Rock for drill weekends, seeing it as an opportunity to visit her family once per month. 

For now, Domey said she is focused on finishing school. She said she is not sure where the Reserve will take her in the future, but she is grateful for the opportunities it has already given her.

“Who knows,” she said, smiling. “Maybe I will try to become an officer.”