Airman Portraits: Airman from West Africa finds home in Air Force

  • Published
  • By Tara Spacy
  • 81st Training Wing Public Affairs
"I remember the first time we got to Africa, the first morning we woke up. My son heard a rooster live for the first time and he kept asking me, 'What's that?' We went outside and the rooster, it was standing on the roof. He thought that was the coolest thing, but it's very common back in Africa."

Staff Sgt. Kwadwo Agyen-Frempong, now an enlisted financial management course instructor in the 335th Training Squadron, was born and raised in Ghana, West Africa, until he was 14 years old. It was at this point that his parents decided to send him to live with his aunt in Connecticut, in the hopes of a better life for him in the U.S.

"I didn't even know what was going on until they told me, "You're aunt is filing for you, so get ready to go," said Agyen-Frempong.

His life in Africa, he said, wasn't necessarily like what most people are used to seeing on TV, though. In order to see wildlife, he had to go to the zoo. "I grew up in the city, my mom was a pharmacist and my dad was in the Air Force. So, I guess I was a little lucky; I got to experience nice things growing up."

With relatives living throughout Europe, Agyen-Frempong traveled much as a child, but moving to another country permanently was still a culture shock. Early on, however, he found a kindred spirit in his wife and high school sweetheart, Stephanie, who had also emigrated to the U.S. as a child, from Jamaica. Sharing that connection, she drew from her own experience and helped him to adjust.

Just because he had moved to the U.S., however, opportunities were not simply falling in his lap. Agyen-Frempong found himself working jobs under the table while still in high school just so his family could get by. After graduating and moving in with one of his brothers, he had to work two jobs in order to pay for rent.

"After I graduated, I worked a couple of assembly lines, drove forklifts, driving and unloading trailers. Did some seasonal jobs on the side. It just wasn't cuttin' it, it wasn't permanent," he said.

Inspired by his father, Agyen-Frempong knew what his next step would be. He was only waiting for his wife, who had joined the Navy, to finish her five years.

"I have always wanted to join the Air Force, always wanted to," he said. "I joined because they take care of their family."

Family is the key to Agyen-Frempong's life, and according to him, to his success. Recently selected to technical sergeant on his second time testing, Agyen-Frempong said, "Honestly, I feel like my family got me through, got me to where I'm at right now."

"My wife stays home with the kids, and that helps out a lot, because that takes out a lot of stress from me that I see people going through. And that gives me more time to do my Air Force job, gives me more time to study," he said. "So if it wasn't for that, it probably wouldn't have been possible."

Between his job and housework, he spends all of his free time with his wife and three children. Though he doesn't always have the time to take them, Agyen-Frempong said his children love to go camping. His solution? "I got them a big tent, set up the tent behind the house, and we camp and they love it."

Agyen-Frempong takes what he has learned and what he loves about being an instructor and instills that in his children as well.

"The way I was brought up, my parents always told me, no matter what job you do you should always do it as best as you can. So I tell my kids, if I'm cleaning, I'm cleaning up, I'll be the best person cleaning up. I'll do the best job. That's how I work. I've been lucky so far, every job I've done I love it. But if it's something I don't enjoy doing, I still give it 100 percent," he said.

It is through a life of hard work and this sort of attitude that Agyen-Frempong has continued to succeed and stand out amongst a sea of airmen. Though he is quiet and reserved, giving all credit to his family, others would say that Agyen-Frempong is a hard worker who has earned every achievement in his career so far.

"He has journeyed from Africa to the United States, building a life for himself and his family, becoming a citizen of the United States," said Lt. Col. Bradley McAlpine, 335th Training Squadron's previous commander. "His recent selection to Tech. Sergeant is a testament to his drive to succeed in serving his nation."

So what are the future plans for this intriguing airman? Agyen-Frempong hopes to stay in the Air Force as long as he can and hopefully, some day make chief. With a passion for teaching, he would continue to do it as long as possible, but he says that no matter where the Air Force takes him, he will always give it his all.