Perseverance: An Airman’s road to the Air Force

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Caleb Nunez
  • 6th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

“We were planning on driving through Mexico in a day,” he said, recalling the day he and his family packed everything they owned into a car and headed north in the pursuit of a better future.

A road trip that should have taken three days, took a week. Although they only stopped for gas, the dread of driving in an unknown country at night forced them to stop and rest each night.

This move from the small country of Belize to the big city of Chicago immensely altered the life of Airman 1st Class Amal Bonner, a medical records technician assigned to the 6th Medical Group at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida.

“The main reason for moving to Chicago was to join the Air Force,” said Bonner. “In a way, I joined for education purposes; but mainly, I wanted to escape Belize to get a different outlook on things.”

Belize is an independent and developing nation located on the eastern coast of Central America that is only 180 miles long and 68 miles wide. It is bordered by Mexico to the north, the Caribbean Sea to the east, and Guatemala to the south and west. Its rich beaches, wildlife riddled jungles and Mayan ruins, highlight Belize as a sought after tourist destination.

“Although living in Belize sounds like paradise, I was at a point where I was about to finish my associate degree in business administration, and I didn’t want to stay in Belize and live the typical life,” said the 23-year-old Bonner. “I wanted to do something different, bounce around and travel a little.”

Fueled by the desire to live a different life, combined with the influence of a persuasive friend from Chicago, pushed Bonner to change his view on the military and make the decision to enlist.

“At first, when you think about the military, you think guns, shooting and war,” said Bonner. “But, I had an enlisted friend who sold me on the Air Force way of life. I did some research and came to the realization that there is a job for everything – you don’t have to ‘just shoot guns.’”

After deciding to join the Air Force and driving for a week to a family members’ house in Chicago, Bonner was ready to start his military career. A career that didn’t take off as smoothly as he had hoped.

“I called the recruiter in January and didn’t ship out for basic training until December,” said Bonner. “I was told I was overweight for my height, so I spent those months working at a job and working out.”

Having to work for nearly a year before enlisting could have easily deterred Bonner, but his determination to succeed has made him appreciative and grateful of his current status.

“It’s the simple things like getting three hot meals at the dining facility,” said the soft-spoken Bonner. “The Air Force has been good to me so far. If I had stayed in Belize, I would have missed out on a lot of experiences that I’ve already had in my short career. It is such a privilege and honor to serve.”

As a records technician, Bonner supports the mission in a significant way.

“We store medical records for everyone at MacDill, which includes active duty members and their dependents,” said Bonner. “We support the mission by keeping the administrative part of the medical group together so there are no problems when patients go see their doctors. Records play a big role in the grand scheme of things because without them, service members can’t be cleared to perform their duties.”

Coming from a different country and adapting in order to reach his goals has taught Bonner the merits of hard work.

“He is enthusiastic about his job and extremely eager to learn,” said Airman 1st Class Seng Thao, a medical records technician assigned to the 6th Medical Group. “He is a very sharp Airman who is always a step above, and I am very grateful to have him on my team and as a friend. He never hesitates to give advice and be a wingman when needed.”

Now that Bonner has achieved his goal of joining the Air Force, he is focused on a greater purpose.

“Although my Air Force goal is to promote as high and fast as I can, I ultimately want to be a role model and inspire hope to the people from small countries who want to better themselves,” said Bonner, the humble son of a banker mom and a baker dad. “After the Air Force, I would like to open a bakery and work with my dad.”

These ambitions stem from a desire to thank his parents for the life lessons he learned through seeing their dedication to provide a better future for the family.

 “People have a picture of third-world countries in general, but it’s pretty much the same as living in America,” said Bonner. “It all depends on your circumstances. I grew up in one of the worst neighborhoods and could have easily gone a completely different direction if it wasn’t for my mom and how hard she worked to take care of me and keep me sheltered.”

Because of his humble beginnings, Bonner says he continues to be proud of his heritage and appreciate how his upbringing shaped who he is now.

“The best part about being from another country is having that cultural difference and being able to tell people about it,” said Bonner. “It's a completely different lifestyle that most people can't comprehend. I love representing and educating people on the beauty of my country.”

Diversity is one of the numerous reasons our country is so remarkable, as it forges adaptable individuals who bear the strength necessary to accomplish the mission. Airman 1st Class Amal Bonner is an example of how diversity leads to a stronger Air Force.