BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan – A C-17 Globemaster III supply clerk from the 8th Expeditionary Air Mobility Squadron at Al Udied Air Base, Qatar, was recently selected to attend Officer Training School while forward deployed here.
Air Force Senior Airman Aigerim Akhmetova said she remembers waking up early to stand in line with her mother for loaves of bread while growing up in Kazakhstan when it was a Soviet republic.
With her country going through difficult times, Akhmetova said, she became strongly goal-driven. She knew she wanted to travel and get an education, she added, so that is what she set out to do.
After receiving a master’s degree in translation from the University of Kyzylorda in Kazakhstan, Akhmetova worked as an interpreter for a large company, speaking Kazakh, English and Russian. She later decided to move to the United States to find a steady job and to travel more.
Challenging Job Hunt in America
“When I came to America, it was challenging to find a job, because my background and all my references were from Kazakhstan,” she said. “So I searched for a career to try to build up my resume. It was hard, but I had to make a decision on what I needed to do. That’s when I decided the Air Force was the right path for me. I could make a difference by helping others and build a career for myself.”
Akhmetova said that with her college degree, she wanted to be an Air Force officer, but because she was not a U.S. citizen, she learned, she could not be commissioned. Undeterred, she enlisted.
Her recruiter advised her to enlist, serve one year at her duty station and then apply for Officer Training School. “I figured it would be a great experience for me and my family to learn about the military culture, so I went ahead with it,” she said.
Akhmetova went to basic military training in November 2011, and after graduating and going to technical school, she was awarded U.S. citizenship, opening the door for her to apply to become an officer.
“After I got my citizen certificate, it was game on. My goal was to get to my duty station, learn and be efficient at my job, and start building up my package to apply,” she said. “Unfortunately, at the time I was ready to apply, they had a freeze in the OTS board, so I took advantage of that time and continued my education and got my [Community College of the Air Force associate’s degree] for my career field.”
During the time Akhemtova was waiting to apply for OTS, she said, she accomplished a lot at her home unit at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington. She joined many organizations and played a part in leading events. In December 2014, it was time to submit her package, and with a clean record and all requirements met, she was on her way to becoming an officer.
“With the help of my leadership, we submitted my package, and from there I stayed hopeful that I would make it,” she said. “Although I had lots of encouragement from my friends and mentors, I thought of the submission as a familiarization process that would prepare me for my next try at applying if I didn’t make it.”
Selected for Officer Training School
After submitting her package, Akhmetova was notified that she was tasked to deploy. It was a month into her tour that she received the news from her supervisor that she was selected for Officer Training School.
“I got the news from her commander from her home station, and I couldn’t wait to share it with her,” said Air Force Master Sgt. Douglas Fielding, 8th Expeditionary Air Mobility Squadron C-17 production superintendent. “She is a hard worker; she puts in extra hours to attend organizations around [Bagram] and she strives to be the best airman she can be. We’re all extremely proud of her here,” he said.
Akhemtova will attend OTS at Maxwell AFB, Alabama, next year.
Prepared for the Opportunity
“I’m so grateful and extremely excited to become an officer. I’ve set many goals for myself, and I’m prepared for this new change in life that I am about to experience,” she said. “Throughout my journey as an officer I’m going to take advantage of as many opportunities as I can, and help others along the way.”
Akhemtova said persistence is the key for enlisted airmen looking for a new challenge as a commissioned officer.
“Whatever you do, don’t give up,” she said. “If you know you want to be an officer, keep applying. Keep trying, and don’t be afraid to go to your leadership and mentors for help. Don’t give up on your goals.”