From Cameroon to U.S. pilot; student seeks wings

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Jake Jacobsen
  • 14th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs
For many, becoming a pilot in the United States Air Force is a dream that can be achieved through the traditional means of commissioning, but every so often a unique story is brought to life in this process.

One such story is of 2nd Lt. Clifford Mua, 41st Flying Training Squadron student pilot, currently undergoing Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training at Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi.

Mua is originally from the Republic of Cameroon, a country in Africa that shares borders with Nigeria and Chad. Mua, along with millions of others, entered into a diversity visa lottery with the hopes of immigrating. This U.S. government lottery program provides countries with a historically low rate of immigration to the U.S., a chance to move here on a green card visa.

To qualify the applicant must have a high school diploma or two years of work experience in the last five years in an occupation that requires at least two years of training. The winners are then chosen randomly by a computer program.

Mua, along with about 3,000 others, were selected from Cameroon’s population of around 25 million. Once Mua won the lottery he contacted the U.S. embassy in Cameroon, got his paperwork together and in a year was on his way to America in 2013.

The challenges began immediately, Mau’s first obstacle was to quickly overcome the language barrier.

“The language, culture, weather and even food are so much different here,” Mua said. “My friends laughed at me because I thought August was cold. Even through the challenges, I knew it was a matter of time before I overcame those obstacles by making friends, watching television and adapting to the area.”

At first Mua found work in the food industry but soon felt a strong desire to help others and sought a profession to do just that.

“After my first job in the country I started working at a nursing home facility because I like to take care of people,” Mua said. “One day I ran into someone who was in the Army National Guard and after talking with him he mentioned he was returning from a deployment in Iraq. I told him I was interested in the military, particularly aviation and science, so he recommended the Air National Guard and got me in touch with a recruiter.”

Mua enlisted into the Air National Guard in Michigan as a medical logistics specialist and while going through Basic Military Training he worked with an immigration officer to receive his citizenship upon graduation.

In his Air Force enlisted career, Mua also worked at the Michigan National Guard Joint Force Headquarters as a part of the state partnership program office. Later, Mua was selected to represent his new homeland as part of the honor guard responsible for carrying the American and state flags at official ceremonies in partner countries.

With the help of the Michigan National Guard State Tuition Assistance program and the G.I. Bill, Mua went to the College of Aviation at Western Michigan University to pursue an aviation science degree while getting his private pilot’s license.

After completing a bachelor’s degree program, Mua was hired by the 171st Air Refueling Squadron, 127th Wing at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Michigan. Now set with the calling of becoming a pilot, he was sent to Officer Training school and commissioned as an Air Force officer in 2019 and began pilot training at Columbus AFB.

Mua not only made an impact on the ANG mission but also in the classroom according to his fellow ANG wingman.

“Cliff is an incredibly motivated, inspirational character,” said the wingman. “I have interacted with my fair share of young officers but his story is exceptional and shows if you really want something and work towards it you can achieve anything. I am happy to be able to go through SUPT with him and the fact that we will be able to fly together throughout our training here and back in Michigan.”

Mua is now in phase II of SUPT learning aircraft flight characteristics, emergency procedures, takeoff and landing procedures, aerobatics and formation flying in the T-6 Texan II. After that he will continue to phase III in the airlift-tanker track flying the T-1A Jayhawk. This course centers on crew coordination and management, instrument training, cross-country flying and simulated refueling and airdrop missions.

“It is a unique environment here and I have come to the realization very fast that the reason why America has the best Air Force is because it’s world class training where the bar is set really high,” Mua said. “Walking into class that first day it was easy to see the high standards they put on you from day one. It is a challenge to be at that standard while working at such a fast pace, but all necessary to reach my goal of becoming a pilot in the U.S. Air Force.”

Upon completion of SUPT, Mua will be stationed at Altus AFB for training in his designated aircraft, the KC-135 Stratotanker, before returning to the 171st ARS as an official Air Force pilot.

“It is an honor to serve and to give back to this great country,” Mua said. “This is a place that is so diverse which many other counties around the world don’t have. Being part of that, I couldn’t ask for anything more.”