Fulfilling Dream To Serve In U.S. Military!
by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Kristen Pittman
Senior Airman Adeola Shafe (Shuh-fee) is
not the average senior airman in the United States Air Force.
Senior Airman Adeola Shafe, food distribution journeyman for the 403rd Force Support Squadron at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi stands outside of the Sablich Center
on December 5, 2021. Shafe moved to America from Nigeria in 2018 and fulfilled his dream of joining the U.S. military. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kristen Pittman)
For starters, at age 42, he’s about 15-20
years older than the average senior airman.
Then there’s his
demeanor. Not to say the average senior airman isn’t an exemplary
servicemember, but there is a certain air upon approaching Shafe
that is warm and inviting and stoic and purposeful and determined
all at once.
And then he speaks and there’s his accent. While
he resides in New Orleans, it’s not the Cajun patois native to the
area, but a dialect from an entirely different continent.
involving someone packing up and venturing across the globe are more
of the bildungsroman type. They take place early in the subject’s
lives, when they don’t have much to lose and everything to gain. Not
when they have a good job and a family of their own.
Encouraged by his mother, and a little reluctant, Shafe left a life
he had built in Nigeria in September 2018 at the age of 38, to see
what opportunities the United States had to offer him.
to coming to America, Shafe admits he really did not have much
interest just based on the fact the he had already built a life in
Nigeria and that he was afraid of the unknown and the change.
However, having researched beforehand different cities in the United
States, and concluding that opportunity was everywhere waiting to be
tapped into, Shafe set his sights on New Orleans and began his quest
He had one particular career-field in mind.
“Back in 2014 or ‘15, I had worked for Nigeria’s Ministry of
Defence for a few months, and I would see these people looking so
elegantly dressed, so I asked someone who they were and they told me
they were American military members,” he said. “I remember telling
my friends that if I ever went to America, I would join the
Having only planned to give it one month to see if
he could fulfill this dream, Shafe hit the ground running,
contacting recruiters from various branches with the mindset that if
he was not able to join the military by the end of the month he
would return to Nigeria.
But he ran into a roadblock: his
age. He found he exceeded the Army and Marine Corps’ age limits.
“It was very frustrating, as soon as I would tell a recruiter my
age, that would be it,” said Shafe. “One time I refused to tell the
recruiter my age over the phone. I said, ‘Just let me come,’ but
still when I went, it was a Marine recruiter, he said ‘Oh sorry’ and
that was it.”
That first month went by with no luck on the
enlisting front, but Shafe’s mother insisted he stay and keep
“That’s when I got a job as a Sheriff’s Deputy,” he
said. “Considering I had had a good life in Nigeria and a degree, I
didn’t want to come here just to be a taxi driver or working at a
restaurant or something like that, so my mother suggested if I
couldn’t join the military, I could join law enforcement.”
While landing that job fulfilled his need for income to provide for
his two sons, his wife and his mother, Shafe didn’t see the job
itself as necessarily the fulfillment he knew the military would
bring him, so he continued to reach out to recruiters.
“Finally in September of 2019, at 39, I found an Air Force Reserve
recruiter who said he could get me in before my 40th birthday,” he
said. “We only had two months, so we had to get everything done
quickly, I took the ASVAB and everything and was able to join.”
At the age of 40, Trainee Shafe was off to Basic Military
Training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio where he realized
his nearly decade old dream of joining the ranks of those
“elegantly” dressed people he saw back in Nigeria.
proudest day of my life was the day I put on this uniform,” he said.
“You know when you have a dream and you see that it’s being
fulfilled? It just gives you this joy. I would do this for free. I
remember my recruiter saying, ‘You’re not even asking how much
you’re going to be paid’ and it was because I didn’t care. The fact
that I’m in the military gives me what money can’t give me. It gives
me joy. When you have satisfaction of the mind, it is
Senior Airman Shafe now serves in the Air
Force Reserve’s 403rd Wing at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., as a
food distribution assistant for the 403rd Force Support Squadron.
They say actions speak louder than words and for Shafe this
rings true saying that he puts all of his energy and zeal into his
work because he wants to be heard, for his hard work to be his voice
that motivates those around him to also give their all.
word that comes to mind when I think of him is: sharp. He’s just
sharp,” said Tech. Sgt. Phyllis Jones, Shafe’s supervisor. “You give
him any task and he’ll get it done flawlessly and in record time
plus all of his other responsibilities, career development courses,
Airman Leadership School, you name it, he excels at it.”
took little time for Shafe to make an impact, earning recognition
and awards for a year of work at the Air National Guard’s Combat
Readiness Training Center in Gulfport, Miss., assisting in the
base’s mission to train and equip thousands of deploying troops from
all over during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
also recently recognized by an Air Force Reserve Command inspection
team as a “Hard Charger” for his outstanding professionalism,
technical expertise, and demonstrated excellence.
“The sky is
the limit for Senior Airman Shafe,” said Jones. “His professionalism
and manners and his work ethic—he’s just an awesome troop and an
asset to the 403rd Wing.”
In regard to the future, Shafe
hopes to land a full-time opportunity serving in the military. He’s
also working to have his entire family here, as his wife is still
currently in Africa.
“I do miss the fact that I’m not here
with my full family; my wife is still back home in Nigeria, so I’m
balancing parenting and my job and while also still trying to
stabilize myself here but I don’t let it weigh me down,” he said.
“I’m just so grateful to be here, wearing this uniform, and every
day I derive my strength from the fact that I am fulfilling my
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