Our Best: Staff Sgt. Happiness Aghedo
Staff Sgt. Happiness Aghedo never dreamed about joining the United States Army as a child.
Growing up in Lagos, Nigeria, Aghedo, a logistician assigned to Headquarters Company, 203rd Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, said she had all she ever wanted in her birth country. One of twelve children, Aghedo grew up in a loving family that placed education as a high priority.
Aghedo was pursuing her degree in International Studies at Ambrose Ally University in Ekpomo, Nigeria, when she received jarring news.
She had the chance to go to America.
“Every year, Nigeria has a lottery for visas to the U.S.,” she said. “My uncle always played for me. When my number came up, my family was very excited, but I didn’t want to go.”
Aghedo had planned to finish her degree and work in her brother’s law firm. She never wanted to leave for America, but her family was insistent.
“They wanted me to go to America,” she said. “They said I would go to America to go to school and come back home.”
Aghedo moved to New York to live with her aunt, who immediately told her to get a job, and for six months, she worked at a fast food establishment.
“My aunt thought it would be good for me,” Aghedo said. “It gave me a chance to learn the currency and the culture. In two to three months, I had become a shift manager and made lots of friends.”
It was during her time at the restaurant that she met an Army recruiter and her life would be changed.
As she was about to enroll in college, he convinced her to take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery.
“I tried to fail it,” she said. “He told me I had to join the Army; that it was too good an opportunity for me.”
She prepared to come into the Army, but kept it from her family until after she signed the papers.
“My aunt was not happy,” Aghedo said. “She didn’t speak to me for a month. All hell broke loose when I told my parents. My mom was worried. They kept telling me that they did not send me to America to join the Army. They sent me to America to go to school.”
Never the less, Aghedo joined the Army in March 2003 and headed to Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., for basic training.
“It went well, but there was a lot of screaming,” she said. “I was the first one to get called for everything. It was crazy. I had to wear glasses and I didn’t talk much. A lot of the people thought because I was African that I was dumb. I understood everything. I was just scared.”
From a shy immigrant recruit, Aghedo’s military career has taken off. She graduated from Advanced Individual Training as an honor graduate, and accumulated rank rapidly and is scheduled to be promoted to sergeant first class after only seven years in the Army.
One of her biggest accomplishments, however, was earning her American citizenship in 2005.
“It felt really good to do it,” she said. “It felt like I had accomplished something.”
As an Army logistician, Aghedo is responsible for getting supplies to the Soldiers that need them.
“I love my job,” she said. “It involves a lot of headaches and a lot of stress, but I love it. I enjoy finding parts for the unit. I like getting into the system and locating what we need.
“At the end of the day, it makes you feel like you really accomplished something and helped people.”
During the 3rd HBCT’s current deployment to Iraq, Aghedo was asked to leave her comfort zone and work as a section sergeant in the 203rd BSB’s Support Operations.
“We took her out of the warehouse and placed her with our maintenance section, and she is doing exceptional,” said 1st Sgt. Demetrius Brown, Headquarters Company, 203rd BSB. “The products she is producing are being used at Fort Lee, Va., to train Soldiers. She is doing that well working outside of her job.”
Aghedo has worked so hard at learning her new role she often needs to be forced by Brown to go get lunch and dinner.
“It has been very challenging, but it has been good,” Aghedo said about her current job. “I had to learn about vehicles and vehicle maintenance. I feel the experience has made me a lot more well-rounded.”
Brown never doubted that Aghedo would be successful with her new post.
“She is the best staff sergeant I have seen in 21 years,” he said. “Her work ethic is what sets her apart. She is totally committed to the mission. I give her multiple things to do, and she gets results. I hate to do it, but she is my go to person.”
Spc. Tiffany Thompson, a logistician assigned to Headquarters Company, 203rd BSB, enjoys working under Aghedo and is impressed with her leadership qualities.
“She taught me about being a professional,” said Thompson, a native of Buena Park, Calif. “She has taught me to exceed the standards and the importance of trying to learn as much as you can professionally. She can be very tough on me, but she is also very caring.”
Brown said Thompson isn’t the only person in his unit that feels that way about Aghedo.
“She is very humble and that is part of what draws leaders’ attention to her,” he said. “You couldn’t tell the level of her professionalism just looking at her. She isn’t someone that likes to draw attention to herself, but when you look at what she does she stands out. She is flexible and can handle anything that is given to her.”
Aghedo is looking forward to serving as an Army recruiter after her current deployment. “I enjoy being an NCO [non-commissioned officer],” she said. “I like taking care of people. I’ve always tried to prove myself. If you decide to be the best, you will be. I’m sure being a recruiter will be good.”
Aghedo’s military career is looking bright. She is looking forward to helping Soldiers achieve their goals and better their careers.
“For the last eight years I have been pushing myself,” she said. “My Soldiers think I work so hard because I’m African. I always say that has nothing to do with it. You get rewards from effort. I always ask, ‘What makes you think you can’t do it?’ You have to always try,no matter what.”
Table of contents for America's African Heroes
- An American Soldier Returns Home
- Sierra Leone native joins Air Force
- Gambian Leads By Example
- From Sudan to Iraq
- Nigerian Native Is Patriotic American
- Proud to Be an American
- Sudanese Refugee Is US Army Soldier
- Our Best: Sgt. 1st Class Dedraf Blash
- Immigrants From Opposite Sides of War-torn Country Become Citizens Together
- Our Best: Staff Sgt. Happiness Aghedo
- Back to Africa – the Land of Opportunity
- Our Best – Staff Sgt. Muna Nur
- From African refugee to US soldier
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This entry was posted on Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010 at 11:00 am and is filed under Immigration, Military, Military, Our Best: Military Women. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.