HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – Growing up in Ghana, Airman 1st Class Jude Baidoo had big dreams. Like many in the gold-mining community where he grew up kicking a soccer ball on dusty fields in the hot sun, Baidoo dreamed of playing soccer professionally.
“I didn’t think there was anything else I wanted to do more than play soccer,” said Baidoo.
Now nearly 5,000 miles away from his hometown of Obuasi, Ghana, he has found similar happiness as an American Airman in the United States Air Force.
“I truly love what I do in the Air Force,” said Baidoo, a medical technician at the 66th Medical Squadron who became an American citizen in January 2014. “Doing something I love makes it feel like I’m not even working.”
Baidoo is one of five children. His father was an engineer and his mother a nurse, both educated through trade schools in Ghana. He grew up in a good home with lots of family around, he said.
After graduating from high school, Baidoo attended Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology.
“There is surety with education,” he said, explaining why he went to college. “It wasn’t anything I loved doing at the time, but professional soccer wasn’t an option for me.”
Following graduation in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in economics, Baidoo began to think about what he wanted to do next.
In 2012, he applied for an opportunity to immigrate to the United States via the Green Card Through the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program. Baidoo described this process as a lottery.
According to the Department of Homeland Security website, the program issues visas to individuals who are from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States.
In 2013, Baidoo was selected to come to the United States.
“I had a friend from home who was living in Massachusetts at the time, so I decided to move to Worcester,” he said.
During the next year, he worked “menial jobs.”
“There were a lot of days I wondered if I would be better off going back to Ghana,” Baidoo said.
Baidoo met with an Air Force recruiter in 2014 and decided to enlist in the Air Force. He left for Basic Military Training in November.
“Joining the Air Force was not an easy decision, but it’s certainly been the right decision for me,” Baidoo said.
He said he has found his purpose as a member of the Air Force.
“I like that the U.S. military is about helping people in need,” he said. “Elders in Ghana sacrificed so that the next generation would have a better future. I find that same purpose while serving in the Air Force.”
At first concerned with adapting to life in the U.S. military, Baidoo said the transition has been easy.
“Growing up in Ghana, humility, respect for authority and respect for your elders were taught to us at a young age,” he said. “It’s the reason the military has come so naturally to me.”
After graduation from basic training, Baidoo became a citizen of the United States.
“This country has given me so much in a short amount of time,” he said. “It’s been an amazing journey to where I am today.”
Soon after graduating from basic training, Baidoo received a message from his parents that read: “Your selflessness, desire to help others and your godly heart will make you a perfect fit for the world’s greatest military. We are very proud of you.”
Baidoo is now looking beyond his initial enlistment in the Air Force.
“I would like to commission,” he said. He will begin working on his master’s degree online this month through Liberty University.
Baidoo still plays soccer, albeit for the base MDS intramural team.
“The impact I’m making as an Airman is much greater than any impact I might have made as a soccer player,” he said. “I’m happy where I am and hope to accomplish much more before I leave the Air Force.”