Lab technician student thriving at Keesler

  • Published
  • By Steve Pivnick
  • 81st Medical Group Public Affairs
Airman 1st Class David Sia is meeting challenges head-on and winning.

Sia, a Phase II medical laboratory technician student at Keesler Medical Center, came to the United States from the West African nation of Burkina Faso in 2012 at the age of 25.

"I decided to move to the U.S. because in my country colleges were having trouble with the government and they were always sending the police after us," Sia said. "They even had the army reprimand us, and they used real weapons on us. So I couldn't stay there. Plus, I always dreamed of coming to the USA and, here I am."

Born in Senegal, Africa, he and his family returned to Burkina Faso when he was 10.

"My father was studying medicine in Senegal," he explained. "He is now a generalist and has returned to school to become a professor."

Recounting his experiences after immigrating to America, Sia said, "I spoke no English (Burkina Faso is a French-speaking nation). I initially lived in the Bronx selling perfume on the street in Harlem for five months. I moved to Baltimore, lived with a friend of my father and began studying at the Community College of Baltimore County. I also worked three jobs: at a gas station, Walmart and washing dishes in a restaurant."

Understandably, he didn't get much sleep.

"It was really, really hard having all those jobs and going to school," he commented. "I decided to do something to better myself and learn a job. The Air Force seemed the most secure place for me to accomplish this.

"Since I was a permanent U.S. resident, I decided to enlist in the Air Force. I planned to come in under the Delayed Entry Program, but when my recruiter called me to tell me there was an opening, and I really needed to enlist then, I did so."

His current Air Force commitment is six years of active duty plus two more in the Reserve.

He began basic military training at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, April 2, 2013.

"I learned most of my English as I went through basic training," Sia recalled. "I was always being yelled at. I was the kind of trainee who, when told to turn left, went right."

After successfully completing basic training May 30, 2013, Sia attended 16 weeks of Phase I medical laboratory apprentice training at the Fort Sam Houston Medical Education and Training Campus in San Antonio. He began the 36-week Phase II program at Keesler in October.

"I've really learned a lot quickly since coming into the Air Force, all of it good," he observed. "It's kind of magical. I sometimes am proud of myself speaking a new language and being understood by others."

He does find the course tests a challenge.

"They are very difficult and some of the material isn't clear to me, plus the language aspect causes me to take a lot of time to formulate my answers, he said"

Commenting on Sia's accomplishments to date, course supervisor Staff Sgt. Loren King said, "I've been very impressed."

Sia, who became a U.S. citizen in a May 23 ceremony in New Orleans, is scheduled to graduate Phase II July 22. He will join his fiancée, who graduated from the same course June 4, at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio. He will also reunite with another student from that class, Airman 1st Class Mohamed Bouraima. They shared similar Air Force experiences as Bouraima came to the U.S. from Benin, which shares a border with Burkina Faso

Sia's future plans include first completing his Air Force Career Development Course and then beginning college courses to ultimately become an engineer specializing in oil drilling.

He hasn't seen his family in Burkina Faso, which includes three younger brothers and a sister, since coming to the U.S, but hopes to visit them in the summer of 2015.