An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Airman joins Air force to chase aviation dream, better life for his family

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Lawrence Sena
  • 379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

Airmen across the Air Force each have their own reasons as to why they choose to serve. Whether it is for better education, healthcare benefits, or wanting to be a part of something bigger than themselves, the goal is to proudly serve while creating a better life for themselves and others.

For Airman 1st Class Kareem Howell, a fuels management specialist, his passion for aviation paired with the goal of providing a better life for his family inspired him to join the Air Force in 2022.  

Howell’s journey to the Air Force began in Spanishtown, Jamaica, where he spent most of his childhood and high school years living with his mother and sister until moving to the United States in 2015.

“I grew up in a big family back Jamaica,” Howell shared. “My mother came to the states to provide a better life for me. She always worked hard to make sure I had everything I needed and my sister did as well. My mom initially came to the states on her own, but everything she’s done has been with a goal of setting up a better foundation for me.”

After arriving to the U.S., Howell lived with his mother in New York where he also attended college studying business while working at John F. Kennedy Airport supplying aircraft with catering. Being surrounded by aircraft every day, Howell discovered a growing passion for aviation and knew he needed to change his educational goals.  

“I have always had a passion for aviation,” Howell stated. “Being at work and being so close to the flight deck, seeing and touching everything, I knew I needed to be there one day.”

Howell would then transfer to an aviation-focused university and start their pilot program. However during his studies, the COVID-19 pandemic would begin, putting a financial stress on him and his family, who also welcomed a newborn daughter at the time.

“Based on where I was with the pandemic going on, work slowing down for me at the airport and my child just being born, I knew I needed a drastic change to better support my wife and I,” Howell said. “If I had stayed on the path I was on I feel like it would have been much more difficult for me accomplish my goals and provide for my family.”

Facing these challenges, Howell looked to the Air Force as a means of providing for his family while simultaneously working toward his aviation goals. 

“I joined the Air Force because I needed to get my family out of the situation we were in,” Howell shared. “I wanted to provide a home for my child and my wife and set a better foundation for my daughter. If I had spent another two or three years on the same path I was on, I feel I might have lost sight of my goals and dreams.”

Howell began his Air Force career in 2022, enlisting as a fuels specialist responsible for providing fuel to the aircraft conducting the mission and performing quality analysis on the fuel to ensure it safe to be used. Despite not being in an aviation career, Howell still has not lost sight of his dream of becoming an aviator in the Air Force. He is currently pursuing his bachelor’s degree in Aeronautics with a goal of applying to the Air Force’s Officer Training School.  

“I asked myself, ‘What can I do to set myself up for success as well set my family?’ and the Air force was the answer,” Howell said. “Since joining, I have aspired to align my goals with the Air Force needs in a role I have desired since childhood, [to be] a pilot and to do it for as long physically possible. My daughter should grow up knowing her father achieved his goals. Never should she feel that her dreams are unattainable due circumstances.”

Howell is just one example of the many Airmen who choose to serve and utilize their time to not only better themselves or reach their personal goals, but to serve others.  

“I initially came into the Air Force with a plan to do four years and use my education benefits after, but I tell people all the time that joining was the best decision I have ever made,” Howell stated. “All of the resources, benefits, the people I’ve met and the experiences I’ve had, nothing beats it.”