JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas –
It was a beautiful, breezy afternoon with the sun high in the sky. Stephanie Essomba was about 15 years old in Yaoundé, Cameroon in Central Africa, walking in the city with her mother.
The roadside was bustling with restaurants and traffic from nearby businesses and embassies when a car she’d never seen before drove past them. The license plate was different. It had a flag hanging on the front.
Essomba asked her mom “Why is that car so different?” and she responded, “It’s a diplomat’s car.” At that moment, the desire to become “that person” was triggered. Airman 1st Class Stephanie Essomba, a dental laboratory technician at the 59th Dental Support Squadron, began learning about policy processes, decision making and the impact those policies could have on people’s lives and fell in love with it.
“I really wanted to serve because I was impressed by people wearing the uniform,” Essomba said. “The military is less than 1% of the population, and they’re impacting people’s lives. I wanted to be part of it because I like to be part of special things that not many people do.”
Essomba enlisted in the United States Air Force on August 3, 2021, earned her citizenship on October 25, 2022, and is currently working on her commissioning package.
“We had an opportunity to celebrate her citizenship, which is an admirable accomplishment that we don’t get to honor often,” said Maj. Kaitlen Lee, Dental Laboratory Flight Commander, 59th DSS. “We are fortunate to have her; her drive to serve this country is very real to her and we see something special in her.”
When Essomba joined her unit, leadership asked her to give a presentation to get to know her better. During her presentation, Essomba’s leadership learned of her goals to commission as an Intelligence Officer and work to become a general, with an ultimate goal of working in the White House.
“I believe a good leader is someone who listens to their people to help them achieve their goals,” Essomba said.
Becoming an officer requires being a U.S. citizen, having good moral character, meeting physical requirements and earning a bachelor's degree.
“Having earned my master's degree in International Relations, I'm proud of being an educated woman and my career,” Essomba said.
Her hope is to serve as part of the President’s Cabinet one day and impact the relationships between different countries.
“I hope to be a general because you gain an understanding on how the military works,” Essomba said. “Those that serve in the President’s Cabinet are advising the president on critical situations and making decisions that impact people. I want to be able to ameliorate the lives of Air Force personnel and help with Air Force missions.”
Essomba shared that her role model is Condoleezza Rice, who served as the United States Secretary of State from 2005 to 2009. She was the first African-American female secretary of state and the first woman to serve as national security advisor.
“She's a career-driven woman who was part of the State Department in the U.S.,” Essomba said. “I was following her because she’s knowledgeable about U.S. policies and government.”
Her passion for international relations has always been a focus for Essomba. Previously, she worked as an international civil servant with 50 countries on how to navigate issues such as climate change in Ivory Coast, West Africa.
After about 10 years, Essomba shared that she felt the need to do something of more value. That’s when her mother reminded her of her desire to join the military where she would have an opportunity to make a difference.
“I was raised by my single mom, who worked all her life for my sister and me,” Essomba said. “I saw a positive, strong woman who always showed us everything's going to be okay.”
Essomba contributes her positive attitude and outlook on life to the way she was raised. The value of faith her grandmother and mother instilled in her created the mentality that nothing is permanent, and as long as you work hard, things will always work out.
“I believe everything is possible and there is a solution to every problem,” Essomba said. “Even if things are bad you can always do better; there's always going to be a green light.”