News>Feature - Hard work pays off for only female in APF security forces class
ACCRA, Ghana -- Leading Aircraftsmen Lydia Opoku, Ghana Air Force general duties, practices challenging techniques shared during a challenge and search exercise at the African Partnership Flight 12-2 March 14 here. The APF is a military-to-military partnership strengthening event providing Air Forces from the U.S., Ghana, Nigeria, Benin, Senegal and Togo the opportunity to exchange techniques and learn from one another. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Natasha Stannard/Released)
ACCRA, Ghana -- Ghanaian air force Lance Cpl. Lydia Opoku, GAF general duties, guards a U.S. Air Force C-130J Hercules on the airfield here during African Partnership Flight 12-2’s capstone event March 21. U.S. Air Forces Africa APF 12-2 is a military-to-military partnership building exercise event providing all air forces involved the opportunity to exchange techniques and learn from one another. Opoku was the only female in security forces in the partnership exercise. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Natasha Stannard/Released)
by Senior Airman Natasha Stannard
U.S. Air Forces Africa Public Affairs
3/27/2012 - ACCRA, Ghana -- She was described as the mother of the class by fellow participants from the first African Partnership Flight, but when security is at risk this mother hen puts down the spoon full of sugar and uses techniques learned from APF 12-2 to eliminate security risks to the base, assets and comrades.
As the only security forces female in the partnership building event, Lance Cpl. Lydia Opoku, Ghanaian air force general duties, saw the approximate 30:1 male to female ratio as nothing more than ice to break by accomplishing every task with no complaints and a smile.
"Our classroom didn't have an icebreaker, but Lydia did that for us," said Master Sgt. Gene Gribble, U.S. Air Forces Africa security forces. "It didn't matter how hot it was, or what we were doing, she always had a great attitude."
To Opoku, smiling and carrying a good attitude through each exercise to include challenging, searching, vehicle searches, and guarding air force assets, is a way of carrying on her father's, former GAF aircraft technician, honor.
"My dad was my everything ... he gave me moral and enthusiasm," she said. "Now, I can say I am the only daughter among his children who is a soldier."
Opoku is working hard to continue taking care of her family. Her work in the air force helps fund her siblings to private universities. But, her need to succeed and continue to work as hard as the men around her doesn't end at providing for her family.
"I said to myself anything the men will do I will do it better than them," she said. "Women don't always have the energy men have, so I saw one guy and told myself I have to copy this guy. I took him as my role model. Anytime he would go, I would go. Anywhere you see him, you'd see me too."
According to both of Opoku's security forces instructors, she brought her A-game to a class full of men on day one of APF and kept a hold of it throughout the entire event.
"With security not even being her primary duty, she's proof that a good personality can go a long way," said Gribble. "Anybody can learn a skill as long as they are open minded and willing to learn like she did."
To Tech. Sgt. Jeffrey Griffith, the moment that outshined the rest was when the outspoken, yet non-aggressive 5- foot -2 inch female entered the realm of challenging and searching, he said.
"Turn away from the sound of my voice foreigner," shouted Opoku, to a trespasser during an APF security challenging exercise.
During this exercise, Lydia used the skills she picked up from the APF to lay the smack down with a smile by continuing to challenge the security threat and seamlessly complete the challenge and search exercise.
"That task empowered her," Griffith said. "She did every task the men did equally as well if not better,"
But, Opoku's good impressions didn't end there for her instructors, or for many others participating in the APF as her thoughtfulness and attention to detail shined.
Every day she made sure everyone had a bottle of water and the classroom was cleaned at the end of the day, said Griffith.
"Every morning here, I have a banana at about 10 a.m., and I guess that she noticed because after a few days she brought me a whole bushel of bananas saying 'I know how much you like them so I brought you some,' Griffith said. "She also made us all bracelets that say Ghana to remember our time here."
"I don't even really wear bracelets, but I've been wearing this one every day," Gribble said of the gift.
Her instructors weren't the only ones who noticed her thoughtfulness and hard work as Opoku also left with a surprise parting gift.
"I got a coin today." She said of her first U.S. Air Force coin Maj. Gen. Maggie Woodward, 17th Air Force commander, gave her on the last day of the APF. "She said she was proud of the work I'd done."
"At the end of the day, Lydia is more than an Airman," said Gribble. "She is and forever will be a sister-in-arms to all six nations participating in APF."