OTIS AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Cape Cod, Mass. --
OTIS AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Cape Cod, Mass. - Senior Airman Yannick Adjei’s father knew he needed to get his family out of the West African nation of Cote d’Ivoire fast. It was 2002 and civil war had just erupted in the country. Adjei’s father was a close adviser to the former president, Robert Guei. On the first night of the conflict, Guei along with his family and aides were assassinated in the capital city of Abijan. As violence spread across the country, everyone in Guei’s administration and all of their families were under perilous threat of political violence.
Adjei and his family escaped to the neighboring country of Ghana. Then his father traveled to the United States to appeal for asylum. In 2007 his request was granted and Adjei and his 4 siblings immigrated to Connecticut as refugees.
“I grew up speaking French all my life, so going to school was hard,” said Adjei. “People made fun of me, the way I dressed, the way I talked, but through all that I’ve never deviated from my dreams. I believe that God blessed me to be a part of this country.”
In the eleventh grade Adjei entered Hamden High School in Hamden Conn. He was the captain of the varsity soccer team and awarded an athletic scholarship to attend Southern Connecticut University. While in college he studied hard to perform academically in English and was supported by the encouragement of his teachers, friends and family. Adjei said he also found strength to persevere through his practice of Judo.
“Judo has made me more humble and understand more about life. Sometimes you’re going to fall, but you don’t have to stay on the ground. You have to get up and face your fear until you beat it,” explained Adjei. “So anytime I fail at something I think about Judo.” Adjei went on to compete nationally and placed second at the United States Judo Association’s Championship in Azusa Calif. in 2014.
Joining the military was a life-long goal and also a difficult challenge for Adjei. “I had to take the ASVAB three times,” he said. “It wasn’t an easy journey. But, if I gave you the phone and told you to call any member of my family, they’re all going to tell you, Yannick always wanted to join the military. I wanted to help save people’s lives and I knew the Air Force was the best branch to serve in.”
Adjei eventually fulfilled his dream of joining the Air Force and now works as a traditional national guardsman with the 212th Engineering and Installation Squadron as a Vehicle Maintenance and Analysis journeyman at Otis Air National Guard Base, Joint Base Cape Cod, Mass.
In addition to joining the Air Force, another aspiration Adjei had was to become a police officer. Because of the flexibility of serving in the Air National Guard part-time, Adjei was able to reach that goal as well after becoming an American citizen in 2016. He graduated from the police academy and joined the Cambridge, Md. police department this past summer.
“I love helping people,” said Adjei. “When I get to work I don’t want to go home. Some people think I’m crazy!”
Adjei enjoys being a role model for kids in the community. “When they hear my accent they’re all surprised,” said Adjei. “Every time they see me they want to talk to me and question me about how I became a police officer.” He’s happy to tell them his story of moving to the United States with nothing, not knowing English, and how studying, working hard and staying away from drugs led him to where he is today, living out his dreams as an American Airman.
What’s next for Adjei?
He’s aiming to become an officer in the Air National Guard.