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Airman ambition: Pushing past the odds to chase opportunity

Airman 1st Class Folly Kuevidjin, a 21st Comptroller Squadron financial management specialist, scans and sends financial documents at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., on May 17, 2016. Kuevidjin was tasked to support Operation Juniper Micron at the 768th Expeditionary Air Base Squadron in Niamey, Niger, as the main translator for the base, on call 24/7. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dennis Hoffman)

Airman 1st Class Folly Kuevidjin, a 21st Comptroller Squadron financial management specialist, scans and sends financial documents at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., on May 17, 2016. Kuevidjin was tasked to support Operation Juniper Micron at the 768th Expeditionary Air Base Squadron in Niamey, Niger, as the main translator for the base, on call 24/7. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dennis Hoffman)

Airman 1st Class Folly Kuevidjin, a 21st Comptroller Squadron financial management specialist, helps a customer with financial questions at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., on May 17, 2016. On average, Kuevidjin helps around 30 customers a day. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dennis Hoffman)

Airman 1st Class Folly Kuevidjin, a 21st Comptroller Squadron financial management specialist, helps a customer with financial questions at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., on May 17, 2016. On average, Kuevidjin helps around 30 customers a day. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dennis Hoffman)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --

Realizing a goal can be tricky. It’s not always a simple-straight path you need to take in order to reach it. More often than not, that goal requires heavy amounts of sacrifice, will power and patience mixed in with a little good fortune.

A goal can be as simple as receiving a quality-higher-education degree, although the path that takes you there can be complicated. It could require you to win a lottery, leave your family, move to another country, join their military and earn a citizenship. For one Airman that is exactly what it has taken.  

Airman 1st Class Folly Kuevidjin, a 21st Comptroller Squadron financial management specialist, has made enormous strides in his pursuit of a higher educational opportunity and has bridged the gap from a young-African man with potential to an American Airman realizing his potential.  

His story begins back in Togo, a small West African country, where Kuevidjin grew up and went to school. He earned his bachelor’s degree in geography and began a successful career as a cartographer in the Togolese National Statistics and Accounting Office, but knew there was more opportunity out in the world for him, said Kuevidjin.

After exploring the internet for his next step in life, Kuevidjin found the Diversity Visa Lottery. This program would allow him to apply for an immigrant visa and send him to the United States where he could take advantage of new opportunities. The only thing in his way was finding a way to win the lottery. Lucky for him, he was selected, he said.

“Every year the Unites States selects 25 to 50 thousand applicants,” said Kuevidjin. “Once I was selected, I did some research. I wanted to get my master’s degree but I was focused on the whole package here in the United States: academics, new opportunities and a new start in life. The bad thing was leaving my mother, father and siblings behind. That was tough”

After arriving and settling in Newport, Kentucky, Kuevidjin was now self-reliant and began working immediately. He started working in a warehouse for Amazon since they were the largest employer in the city, said Kuevidjin.

He continued working and saving money until he decided that he should look into the military.

“Initially I was more interested in joining the Navy but I had a friend, who also worked with me at Amazon who was thinking about joining the Air Force,” said Kuevidjin. “We went to talk to a recruiter and from then, I started looking more into the Air Force. I thought it might be a little more interesting than the Navy so we both decided to join the Air Force.”

It was not long before Kuevidjin was graduating his financial management technical training at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi. As if technical training was not difficult enough, Kuevidjin simultaneously earned his U.S. citizenship in June 2014.

After beating out thousands of applicants and winning an immigrant visa, leaving behind his beloved family for an indefinite amount of time and joining the Air Force, Kuevidjin was on track to start seeking out his goal of completing his master’s degree but life happens and things change said Kuevidjin.

Six months passed since he first arrived at his first operational base and Kuevidjin had successfully finished his career development courses. He began looking for areas he could leverage existing talents and skills to be of better use to the Air Force. Because his home country of Togo is predominantly a French speaking nation he sought out his proficiency certification, he said.  

Kuevidjin cruised through the language testing portion so quickly and so proficiently, he was picked up for first deployment shortly after. He was tasked to support Operation Juniper Micron at the 768th Expeditionary Air Base Squadron in Niamey, Niger, as the main translator for the base, on call 24/7.

Being a native African, back in Africa but wearing the official uniform of the U.S. Air Force was a unique feeling for Kuevidjin.

“Being in Africa, and seeing all the stuff you left behind — you feel different,” said Kuevidjin. “People don’t see you as 100 percent African anymore, but you need to know what you are there for and not deviate from your mission. But the people see you and think you have made it. I know they are really proud of me.”

Once Kuevidjin arrived back in the states he could take a deep breath. He had accomplished his first deployment at an early stage in his young Air Force career. He was, again, ready to pick back up where he left off on his journey to his education.

“I have got to this point, and that’s great but I’m not satisfied yet,” said Kuevidjin. “There are a lot of things I have planned to do, so right now I am working on all those things. It’s a long process but it’s a good feeling being back on my path. I will get where I want to be, I just have to keep working.”

Kuevidjin is on track to reach his goal but more importantly he is focused on his mission. With the help of the Air Force, he will succeed and with the help of Airman like Folly Kuevidjin, the Air Force will succeed. 

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