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An Airman’s journey from Kazakhstan to OTS

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Cierra Presentado
  • 455th AEW Public Affairs

An Airman from the 8th Expeditionary Air Mobility Squadron, Al Udied Air Base, Qatar, was recently selected to attend Officer Training School while forward deployed to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan.

Growing up in Kazakhstan when it was a former Soviet republic, Senior Airman Aigerim Akhmetova, 8th EAMS C-17 supply clerk, remembers waking up early to stand in line with her mother for loaves of bread to feed her family due to the shortage of food. With her country going through difficult times, Akhmetova became stronger and a goal driven person; she knew she wanted to travel and get an education so that is what she set out to do.

After attending the University of Kyzylorda in Kazakhstan and receiving a master’s degree in translation, Akhmetova worked as an interpreter for a large scale company speaking in 3 different languages to include Kazakh, English and Russian. She later decided to move to the U.S., to find a steady job and to travel more.

“When I came to America, it was challenging to find a job because my background and all my references were from Kazakhstan,” Akhmetova 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 decided that with her college degree she wanted to be an officer in the Air Force, but because she was not a U.S. citizen she learned that she could not commission. Undeterred, she instead enlisted.

“My recruiter told me what my options were, which included enlisting first, do my one year time on station and then apply for OTS. 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.

It was Nov. 15, 2011 when Akhmetova attended basic military training, and after graduating and going to technical school she was awarded U.S. citizenship. Her citizenship opened 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 CCAF for my career field.”

During the time Akhemtova was waiting to apply for OTS, she accomplished a lot at her home unit at Joint Base Lewis McChord. She joined many organizations and played a part in leading wing-wide events. In Dec. 2014, it was time to submit her package, and with a clean record and all requirements met, she was on her journey 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 familirization process that would prepare me for my next try at applying if I didn’t make it.”

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 Master Sgt. Douglas Fielding, 8th EAMS C-17 production superintendent. “She is a hard worker; she puts in extra hours to attend organizations around BAF and she strives to be the best Airman she can be. We’re all extremely proud of her here,” he said.

Akhemtova was selected to be a personalist and will be attending OTS at Maxwell AFB, Ala., in 2016.

“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.”

When asked what advice she could give to enlisted Airmen like herself who are wanting to become an officer but not sure what to do, she had this to say.

“Whatever you do don’t give up. 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,” she said. “Don’t give up on your goals.”