Senior Airman James Getonga – An enlistment of gratitude

  • Published
  • By U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Dylan Auger
  • 439th Airlift Wing

Senior Airman James Getonga, 337th Airlift Squadron flight engineer, embodies what it means to be a selfless and gracious Citizen Airman.

Born in Brooklyn, New York to an American mother and a Kenyan father, his family made the decision to relocate to the African country of Kenya soon after his birth.

Getonga would spend nearly the entire first 18 years of his life in Kenya before returning to the United States. “At 18 I returned stateside to attend college at Boston University,” said Getonga. He would go on to earn an undergraduate degree from B.U. and later a graduate degree from Boston University’s Questrom School of Business before starting a successful career in the corporate world. He currently serves as a Senior Marketing Advisor for Dell Technologies.

Despite achieving such success in his civilian career, Getonga still wanted to make it a priority to enlist in the U.S. military.

“I always knew I would serve this country,” said Getonga. “I could not in good faith, not give back to the nation that had given me so much.”  He chose to enlist in the U.S. Air Force Reserve to serve his country while still being able to work at his same civilian employer full-time.

He said the path to becoming a flight engineer was far from an easy one, as the two-year-long training presented challenges along the way.

“The training is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, even more difficult than the graduate degree I achieved,” said Getonga. “You don’t make it there without the right attitude and competence.”

Getonga said he takes pride in being the first person in his family to serve in the U.S. military. He also said his military service has led to personal growth and expanded his perspective.  “I’m forced to slow down,” he said. “It’s the exact opposite in the corporate world where you are expected to be hyper focused.”

Something he also gains from his service at Westover is a sense of community and comradery. “In the military, you always really feel like somebody always has your back,” said Getonga.

Getonga said he remains grateful to be able to serve alongside a group of selfless servicemembers, who he can trust to accomplish the mission and maintain the pride and professionalism necessary to keep the world’s greatest Air Force moving.