Airman in pursuit of American Dream

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Melanie Hutto
  • 6th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
"The reason I decided to join the Air Force is the same as why I came to America," said Airman 1st Class Putthinan Thongmak, 6th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief. "I wanted to set myself up for success."

At age 12, Thongmak and his family uprooted their life from Phitsanulok, Thailand to Corpus Christi, Texas, leaving behind family and friends in pursuit of the "American Dream."

"I came from across the world; I knew there was more that the world had to offer," explained Thongmak. "I wanted to see it all, and I thank God that the Air Force provided me that."

Without any knowledge of the English language, Thongmak began his journey in the United States in middle school. It was impossible to find a Thai-English translator to help with his learning, but he was fortunate to have patient, supportive teachers and faculty members that provided one-on-one tutoring.

"The transition from Thailand to America was extremely challenging. It was really hard to fit in due to the language barrier," said Thongmak.

Despite his difficult transition, Thongmak pressed on with his education. He successfully graduated high school in May of 2012 and went on to earn his associate's degree.

Since Thongmak can remember, he has aspired to become an aircraft mechanic. With that in mind, he enlisted into the Air Force on Dec. 3, 2013, landing a job as a crew chief.

Although the language barrier still poses a challenge, Thongmak's perseverance and charisma have provided him with the strength to push through.

"It took me years to overcome the language barrier," said Thongmak. "Still to this day, I am consistently learning and improving my communication skills by closely listening and reading body language."