From Cameroon To USAF Pilot
by U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Jake Jacobsen
For many, becoming a pilot in the United States Air Force is a
dream that can be achieved through the traditional means of
commissioning, but every so often a unique story is brought to life
in this process.
One such story is of 2nd Lt. Clifford Mua,
41st Flying Training Squadron student pilot, currently undergoing
Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training at Columbus Air Force Base,
Mua is originally from the Republic of Cameroon,
a country in Africa that shares borders with Nigeria and Chad. Mua,
along with millions of others, entered into a diversity visa lottery
with the hopes of immigrating. This U.S. government lottery program
provides countries with a historically low rate of immigration to
the U.S., a chance to move here on a green card visa.
U.S. Air Force 2nd Lt. Clifford Mua, 41st Flying Training Squadron student pilot, stands in front of a T-6 Texan II before flight Nov. 4, 2020, on Columbus Air Force Base Miss. Mua completed his dollar ride, the first flight a student pilot takes during Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training, and in keeping with tradition, presented his instructor pilot a decorated dollar after the flight was complete. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jake Jacobsen)
To qualify the applicant must have a high school diploma
or two years of work experience in the last five years in an
occupation that requires at least two years of training. The winners
are then chosen randomly by a computer program.
Mua, along with about 3,000
others, were selected from Cameroon’s population of around 25
million. Once Mua won the lottery he contacted the U.S. embassy in
Cameroon, got his paperwork together and in a year was on his way to
America in 2013.
The challenges began immediately, Mau’s
first obstacle was to quickly overcome the language barrier.
“The language, culture, weather and even food are so much different
here,” Mua said. “My friends laughed at me because I thought August
was cold. Even through the challenges, I knew it was a matter of
time before I overcame those obstacles by making friends, watching
television and adapting to the area.”
At first Mua found work
in the food industry but soon felt a strong desire to help others
and sought a profession to do just that.
“After my first job
in the country I started working at a nursing home facility because
I like to take care of people,” Mua said. “One day I ran into
someone who was in the Army National Guard and after talking with
him he mentioned he was returning from a deployment in Iraq. I told
him I was interested in the military, particularly aviation and
science, so he recommended the Air National Guard and got me in
touch with a recruiter.”
Mua enlisted into the Air National
Guard in Michigan as a medical logistics specialist and while going
through Basic Military Training he worked with an immigration
officer to receive his citizenship upon graduation.
Air Force enlisted career, Mua also worked at the Michigan National
Guard Joint Force Headquarters as a part of the state partnership
program office. Later, Mua was selected to represent his new
homeland as part of the honor guard responsible for carrying the
American and state flags at official ceremonies in partner
With the help of the Michigan National Guard State
Tuition Assistance program and the G.I. Bill, Mua went to the
College of Aviation at Western Michigan University to pursue an
aviation science degree while getting his private pilot’s license.
After completing a bachelor’s degree program, Mua was hired by
the 171st Air Refueling Squadron, 127th Wing at Selfridge Air
National Guard Base, Michigan. Now set with the calling of becoming
a pilot, he was sent to Officer Training school and commissioned as
an Air Force officer in 2019 and began pilot training at Columbus
U.S. Air Force 2nd Lt. Clifford Mua,
41st Flying Training Squadron student pilot, begins flight preparations in the T-6 Texan II Nov. 4, 2020, on Columbus Air Force Base Miss. The T-6 aircraft is part of the second phase of Specialize Undergraduate Pilot Training where students learn aircraft flight characteristics, emergency procedures, takeoff and landing procedures, aerobatics and formation flying. (Image
created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jake Jacobsen)
Mua not only made an impact on the ANG mission but also
in the classroom according to his fellow ANG wingman.
is an incredibly motivated, inspirational character,” said the
wingman. “I have interacted with my fair share of young officers but
his story is exceptional and shows if you really want something and
work towards it you can achieve anything. I am happy to be able to
go through SUPT with him and the fact that we will be able to fly
together throughout our training here and back in Michigan.”
Mua is now in phase II of SUPT learning aircraft flight
characteristics, emergency procedures, takeoff and landing
procedures, aerobatics and formation flying in the T-6 Texan II.
After that he will continue to phase III in the airlift-tanker track
flying the T-1A Jayhawk. This course centers on crew coordination
and management, instrument training, cross-country flying and
simulated refueling and airdrop missions.
“It is a unique
environment here and I have come to the realization very fast that
the reason why America has the best Air Force is because it’s world
class training where the bar is set really high,” Mua said. “Walking
into class that first day it was easy to see the high standards they
put on you from day one. It is a challenge to be at that standard
while working at such a fast pace, but all necessary to reach my
goal of becoming a pilot in the U.S. Air Force.”
completion of SUPT, Mua will be stationed at Altus AFB for training
in his designated aircraft, the KC-135 Stratotanker, before
returning to the 171st ARS as an official Air Force pilot.
“It is an honor to serve and to give back to this great country,”
Mua said. “This is a place that is so diverse which many other
counties around the world don’t have. Being part of that, I couldn’t
ask for anything more.”
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