FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. – Capt. Victoria Aladeokin, a public health nurse at General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital, demonstrates her dedication to the well-being and health of her fellow service members on Fort Leonard Wood as a subject matter expert in contact tracing — her journey here, however, was a long one that took her all the way from Africa.
She first came to the U.S. seeking opportunities when she moved from Lagos, Nigeria in 2009. Now she looks for ways to give back and education is the best path to paying it forward.
Aladeokin said her character was initially shaped by her father. To him, education was an international currency. She had family in Alabama and sought an opportunity to attend college there. As a student at the University of North Alabama, she initially studied mathematics before changing her major to nursing, and she graduated with her associate degree.
“When it comes to my father, sacrifices were made,” she said. “Growing up — no matter what — if he had to sell his shoes for you to go to school, that’s what would happen. He said, ‘I cannot leave you riches; I cannot leave you mansions; I cannot leave you cars; but I can give you education. That’s your inheritance from me.’”
As an international student, Aladeokin had to return to Nigeria unless she stayed in school. Her search for more opportunities led her to a program under special provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act. The program allowed her to enlist in the military with her language fluency. Since she speaks Yoruba — one of three native languages in Nigeria — she met the criteria and enlisted as a Combat Medic Specialist in 2013.
“As an international student in 2013, this was a blessing because there was no other path for an international student to go from non-immigrant status straight to citizenship,” she said.
She said enlisting in the Army was the opportunity to obtain citizenship. After completing her citizenship requirements, Aladeokin was officially made a U.S. citizen.
“You have to know your ‘why’ when you do things,” she said.
The ‘why’ she said, was to give back to a country that gave her everything.
“I compare my love for this country for when you adopt a child,” she said. “It’s no different than your biological child, the love between them. I love where I was born, but I do love the United States more because this is my country. This is where I belong to. This is where I fit in. This [country] who has given me everything and who has made me who I am.”
After joining the Army, however, it would be five years before she would live in the U.S. again — her new journey as a Soldier would first take her to Germany.
Other opportunities were on the horizon for her as an enlisted service member as well. Under the two-year Army Medical Department Enlisted Commissioning Program, she was able to complete her Bachelor of Science in nursing at Florida Atlantic University and was commissioned. Following her return tour to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany — the largest American hospital outside the United States — she returned to the U.S. and attended a course in public health nursing while the COVID-19 pandemic was accelerating.
She said the pandemic was the focus throughout the course.
“You don’t hear about public health nurses or public health field normally because they are doing what they need to be doing,” she said. “But with COVID, now everyone knows who public health is but we have always been doing our job in the background.”
Her work is now focused on the service members and trainees here. She said she enjoys helping training units meet their goals upon graduation.
“The trainees are living in a congregated setting,” she said. “That poses a challenge for us. It’s the education, mitigation strategies and identifying risks in that setting for success.”
She said her husband, Oluwabunmi “Bunmi” Aladeokin, an operations support assistant at the 14th Military Police Brigade, is very supportive to her career.
“As her spouse and No. 1 fan, I am lucky to experience directly her love for the profession,” he said. “She is enthusiastic and excited when faced with a challenge, knowing it is an opportunity to learn.”
Bunmi said another motivation for his wife is the desire to help others.
“She always put others first, even in the family,” he added. “Behind all the efforts, service to the country and selfless sacrifice, is a burning desire to give all it takes to make the world a better place starting from her small little corner.”
Aladeokin said her next goal is to attend an Army program by which she would receive a doctorate in nursing after qualifying for and completing several demanding requirements.
She called it “just another opportunity.”
“It’s a country that can give you hope and if you have that hope you can be exactly who you want to be,” she said. “You can be some other place and you can have hope all day long, but it may not be a system that functions. But here, I believe if you want to be anything you want to be, this would be the country. There are so many opportunities with so much to give.”
The goal after Aladeokin’s military service is to start a non-governmental organization.
Before that, she said she still has at least 12 more years to give to the Army.
“We have both been recipients of public health initiatives,” she said. “It’s my way of saying thank you for what has been done for me.”
Bunmi said the Army, nursing and the public health profession “is blessed to have her.”