FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. — For Sgt. Alexander Amoah, his first time in the United States was reminiscent of a scene from the 1993 Disney movie “Cool Runnings.”
“My first time in the U.S., I landed at JFK airport in New York City in January,” said Amoah. “In my head I thought of the coldest time in Ghana, so I only had two long-sleeved shirts with me. I went back into the airport once I opened the door. I had never been in such cold weather before. We only have summer and spring in Ghana. The weather was a big change.”
Amoah immigrated to the U.S. in 2013 from Ghana, a small country on the Atlantic coast of Africa. Ghana has a population of about 31 million. The metro area of NYC itself is more than half that amount.
Amoah came to the U.S. as part of the Electronic Diversity Visa Program. The Immigration Act of 1990 established the Diversity Visa Program, where 55,000 immigrant visas would be available in an annual lottery. The lottery aims to diversify the immigrant population in the United States, by selecting applicants mostly from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States in the previous five years.
“I saw a group of people collecting applications for the program on the way to church one day,” said Amoah. “It was the first time I had heard of the program. I thought it was a scam at first. My friend put in his information and my friend persuaded me to do the application. About three to four months later the selection results came and I was selected. I didn’t believe it. You just can’t get to the U.S. that easy.”
Once selected, Amoah had to go to the U.S. Embassy in Ghana's capital, Accra. He went through a medical check and an interview, where officials made sure he could speak and write in English.
“I still didn’t believe it was true until the day I got my visa,” he said. “I came to the U.S. just a few weeks later.”
He made the hard decision to come without his wife and newborn daughter. He needed to come and see how things were, get situated and find a place to live before bringing his family over. He ended up in a recruiter’s office for the U.S. Army and enlisted in November 2013.
“I had to register for selective service when I came here,” said Amoah. “I had already done national service in Ghana. That’s where after you finish school, you work in a government agency for 12 months to get experience. I joined the Army, worked hard and then I was able to file to bring my wife and daughter from Ghana.”
Amoah is now an automated logistics specialist, currently assigned to the 15th Military Police Brigade based at Fort Leavenworth.
“When I saw the recruiter, he told me there were certain jobs that weren’t open to those who weren’t U.S. citizens,” said Amoah. “I choose this military occupational specialty because I thought it translated well to the civilian world and I thought the opportunities this job offered were interesting.”
His primary duty in his current job is the training room noncommissioned officer.
“I plan and schedule yearly training in order to make sure all personnel are up-to-date on their trainings,” he said. “I also occasionally teach classes.”
Amoah has lofty career goals but ones he believes he can achieve. He completed his master’s in health administration in 2019 and started his doctoral degree in health administration in March of this year. He eventually plans to switch his military occupational speciality to health administration and was just selected to Officer Candidate School. He hopes to be one of the top executives for health administration in the Army.
Looking back on the experience, Amoah says he was nervous at first but quickly found his path.
“The U.S. is way bigger than Ghana,” he said. “There are so many more people, but there are programs and policies in place to help people who aren’t born here develop and better themselves.”
To learn more about career opportunities in the Army, visit GoArmy.com.