Face of Defense: Togolese-born Army NCO Lives His Dream
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Eric Pahon
82nd Combat Aviation Brigade
KHOST PROVINCE, Afghanistan, June 26, 2012 Army Sgt. Koku Adzoble joined the U.S. Army to make a better life for himself.
Army Sgt. Koku Adzoble, top, inventories tools with Army Sgt. 1st Class James Crews on Forward Operating Base Salerno, Afghanistan, June 14, 2012. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Eric Pahon
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
“Back in Africa, I was a teacher in high school,” said Adzoble, who claims Bronx, N.Y., as his stateside home. “When I came here, I was working in a store, and it wasn’t good for me. So, I joined the Army. I saw a way to make a difference in my life, and this is a much better place. That’s why I’m staying in.”
Adzoble emigrated to the U.S. in 2007 from Togo under the U.S. State Department’s visa lottery, which makes up to 55,000 visas available each year to countries with underrepresented populations in the U.S. The program requires applicants to either have a high school education, or two years’ work experience.
Adzoble won one of 3,777 visas offered in Togo. He graduated with a degree in physics from the University of Lomé in 2006 and was teaching high school until he moved to the United States a year later.
“I had a chance,” Adzoble said. “Some countries don’t get that chance [to award U.S. visas], so you play every year you’re eligible, and if you win, you get to come to the United States and get a visa. I was very lucky.”
Adzoble was working as a stock clerk in a New York City department store when a co-worker suggested that he join the U.S. Army.
“I was working for this one guy, and he joined the Army,” Adzoble said. “He left, and when he came back to visit, I listened to what he told me [about the Army]. What he was doing was better than what I had going at the time, so I decided to follow him. He’s the reason I joined.”
In basic training, Adzoble faced difficulty understanding English. He said his drill sergeant wanted to hold him back for additional English language training, but the company commander let him stay on and work toward graduation.
“French is our official language,” Adzoble said. “We went to school and took English as a second language, but no one really takes that seriously. We have two or three hours of English class, but no one pays that much attention to it so they don’t speak English that well.”
Adzoble improved his English skills and graduated with honors as an automated logistical specialist at Fort Lee, Va.
Following a two-year tour in Korea, Adzoble was stationed with Task Force Wolfpack, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, Fort Bragg, N.C., in December 2010. Eleven months later he deployed here to Forward Operating Base Salerno.
Army Sgt. 1st Class James Crews, Adzoble’s supervisor, says an unfailingly-positive attitude has allowed him to become a model soldier.
“He’s a hard worker,” said Crews. “He had some great leadership before he came to me in 2010. He’s one of those guys who goes straight to work when you ask him to do something. He doesn’t ask why; he just does it.”
Adzoble is a supply clerk at the base’s motor pool, keeping track of the parts inventory and monitoring deliveries. His job is critical to keeping the unit’s vehicles on the road, requiring attention to detail and the ability to keep track of dozens of components.
“He’s an encyclopedia,” Crews said of Adzoble. “He’s that type of guy who’ll pretty much look over something once or twice and he’s got it memorized. It comes in very useful. When I’m trying to find a part, I ask him, and he knows what I’m talking about and where to find it right away.”
Adzoble has a wife and a daughter in West Africa. His daughter, he said, is too young to leave Africa right now, but he hopes to establish a permanent home in the United States so his family can join him in a few years. First, he wants to explore the country and find a place he’d like his family to settle.
“I don’t want to bring them, then, the next day we have to move again,” Adzoble said. “It’s not like I don’t enjoy Fort Bragg, but I want to see more of the United States and see if there’s somewhere I might like even more.”
Adzoble hopes to earn a physics degree in the United States.
He re-enlisted for three more years of Army service, and he’s looking to earn a promotion before he leaves Afghanistan.
“He got pinned E-5 [sergeant] in December, and we’re probably going to send him to the E-6 [staff sergeant] promotion board before we leave Afghanistan,” Crews said. “He’s just that type of worker and has that type of leadership style.”
As for his daughter, Adzoble has no plans to push her into following in his footsteps.
“I’ll try my best to guide her on her own way,” he said. “She might want something different. The thing I can do is provide for her and do my best to support her. The one thing I want for her is to succeed and do something better with her life.”