MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. – In the United States, winning the lottery means winning a pile of cash. In Ghana, West Africa, the lottery means a new life, a U.S. visa, and for one Marine, a chance to serve.
Lance Cpl. Andrews K. Nsenkyire, an administrative specialist with Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point’s Installation Personnel Administration Center, was living in Ghana when he found out he had won a national visa lottery.
Nsenkyire was one of the 5,832 applicants from Ghana, a country of more than 24 million citizens, who won the opportunity to apply for an immigration visa in 2012.
“One day, when I was in high school, a teacher came into class and passed out some forms telling us to fill them out,” Nsenkyire explained. “I did not know what the forms were for, and to be honest, I had completely forgotten about it."
Nsenkyire went on with his life, with no explanation about the paperwork and no clue his life was about to change forever. Months later, Nsenkyire's teacher, the same one who encouraged him to complete the visa forms, gave Nsenkyire the news: he had won the national lottery.
“I was happy for the chance to apply for a visa,” he said. “I had to go to the U.S. Embassy three times for interviews, to take pictures and fill out forms.”
Money was tight, so Nsenkyire sold most of his belongings -- including his computer, television and motorcycle -- to fund the visa process and travel expenses. With a little help from his visa sponsor, he was on a flight to the United States in May 2012.
“I didn’t come from a rich family,” he said. “But I always wanted to join the military to protect people who can’t defend themselves.”
Nsenkyire said he attempted to join the Army in Ghana, but he was not accepted. Driven by his desire to serve and aided by his new life in the United States, he added, he found the closest recruiting office in Alexandria, Va.
Nsenkyire walked into a recruiting office for the first time in June 2012 and began exploring his opportunities as a Marine almost by chance, he said.
“Once I walked in the office, the first person I saw was a Marine,” he said. “I told him I wanted to join the Army, and his response was, 'No, you don't!' Then he explained to me how good I would be as a Marine."
That was the first time he had ever heard of the Marines, Nsenkyire noted, because Ghana doesn’t have a Marine Corps. He made his decision after he asked his brother about the Marines and he learned they are considered the best fighting force in the world, he said.
Two months after arriving in the United States, Nsenkyire began the enlistment process, which took about five months. He joined the Delayed Entry Program with Recruiting Station Frederick, Md. Nsenkyire said he could not wait to depart for boot camp after joining.
“I was supposed to leave on April 8, 2013,” he said. “I was always talking to my recruiter, Sgt. William Howard – I wanted to go early. One day, he called me and said he had room in his schedule and that I would be shipping out in January.”
After graduating from recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, S.C., Nsenkyire completed Marine Combat Training at Camp Geiger, N.C., and military occupational specialty school at Camp Johnson, N.C.
Nsenkyire arrived at Cherry Point in the summer of 2013 and quickly gained a reputation for professionalism and reliability. As a personnel clerk at IPAC's quality control department, Nsenkyire earned a meritorious promotion to lance corporal in November 2013. He recently was named Air Station Marine of the Quarter, and said he plans to continue his track record of success, on and off duty.
“I help solve people's problems,” Nsenkyire said. “I make sure I do my job perfectly, because I’m one of the only people on base who can help with pay issues, so I need to pay attention to every detail.”