Cameroon native enlists for citizenship, family and challenge
DVIDS | Jul 28 2015
USS KEARSARGE, Atlantic Ocean – Cameroon is a central African country with 22 million residents. LCpl Caleb Nti, an administrative specialist with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, lived in Cameroon until he was 14, when his parents decided to move to the U.S.
"My dad was a teacher, the first to graduate college and he wanted to give us better opportunities," said Nti.
Nti said his dad worked hard to graduate school and provide for their family, comprised of his mother, father and nine siblings.
When they moved to the U.S. seeking to improve their situation and chance of greater success, Nti had to adapt to a new setting; learn a new language, his first language is French, the native language of Cameroon, and embrace a different culture.
"It's interesting in Cameroon," said Nti. "Our large family was all together, it was peaceful and we didn't worry about the same things you do here."
Having the majority of his family in the same place, Nti said he felt safe and happy.
"The cultures are different," said Nti. "We were taught to have a steeper respect for elders in Cameroon, and we grew up closer to the things in our daily lives."
Nti's family owned a farm in Cameroon. He said he grew up with a greater appreciation of food, picking fruit from trees and gathering different vegetables for their meals.
"It's significantly different from here where we rely on stores to get everything," said Nti. "There it was more common for people to have their own sources of food."
The experiences he had in Cameroon shaped his life and values, said Nti.
"It was great, but I understand why my parents wanted to come to the U.S.," said Nti. "They're always pushing us to better ourselves."
Nti spent the latter part of his life in Baltimore, Md. He finished high school and attended Prince George's Community College, close to his family's home in Baltimore. He initially planned to study for a medical profession after recommendations from his family that it would help him achieve success, but he changed his mind after he decided it didn't fit his personality.
"It wasn't me," said Nti. "It is a good field to be in, but I wanted to do something different, so I switched to criminal justice."
He completed two years of school before he decided he wanted to enlist in the Marine Corps.
"Financial aid is good, but I needed more to finish school and I didn't want to use student loans," said Nti. "I had always wanted to travel so the military was an opportunity to help me better myself and meet my goals."
The Marine Corps interested him most because of its challenge and the close relationships Marines have, said Nti.
"It's difficult and I could see how the Marine Corps is a family," said Nti. "I decided that it was something I wanted to be."
When he enlisted, Nti did not have a U.S. citizenship. He earned his citizenship through his enlistment and became the second of his siblings to do so and the only one to join the military.
"It's important to me and important to my family," said Nti. "It's one of the greatest things I've gained from my service."
He said it was a relatively simple process. He presented his green card and other information to his recruiter during the enlistment process. Afterwards, when he arrived to Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., he signed documents confirming his citizenship.
"Out of everything I've gained from the Marine Corps, which is a lot, it is the most important," said Nti.
Other things Nti said he gained from the Marine Corps include skills that have helped him personally including camaraderie, discipline and developing lasting friendships.
LCpl Linnard Addison, an administrative specialist with the 26th MEU, is a coworker and friend of Nti. They have worked together at Camp Lejeune, aboard the USS Kearsarge during various exercises and are slated to deploy together later this year.
"Nti is sociable and easy to talk to," said Addison. "He's easy to work with because of his work ethic and willingness to learn.
Along with Addison and several others, Nti is responsible for providing administrative support to the Marines of the 26th MEU.
"I think he uses the difficulties he experienced in Cameroon to his advantage," said Addison. "He uses that as motivation to work harder, because he sees the opportunities he has here and he doesn't want to take that for granted."
Nti and Addison developed their friendship through shared experiences within the Marine Corps and conducting themselves in the same work section. Nti said he and many other friends he's gained is another rewarding part of his enlistment.
"I've gained many brothers," said Nti. "You rely on one another and get close to each other through your experiences."
Nti's parents were not happy with his choice initially, but after watching him gain skills, better himself and finding happiness through friends made and experiences had, their feelings changed, said Nti.
"They know I'm happy and will continue to better myself as a person," said Nti.
He has decided to apply for reenlistment when the time comes and use tuition assistance to finish his degree in criminal justice, so he can pursue a career after the Marine Corps.
"I want to work for the FBI as an investigator," said Nti. "It's a lot of work, and I have a lot to learn."
Other goals Nti has following reenlistment include special duty assignments, which include drill instructor, recruiter and Marine security guard. He has expressed interest in becoming a drill instructor.
"He wants to stay in and be a drill instructor," said Addison. "I think he should because he's a good Marine and the kind we need training other Marines."
Nti said he gained a lot from the Marine Corps that will help him reach his vision. He's gained leadership and knowledge that gives him a better understanding of how to achieve one's personal goals.
"I've had many great leaders that had great ideas and set the example for us to follow," said Nti. "I'm glad that I learned so much."
The Marine Corps has given him the tools to be successful and he plans to use those to continue carrying himself with its values, said Nti.
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