After successfully graduating from the US Army, Kenyan born Lesa Kilonzo takes us through her journey from relocating to Kenya, experience through her training, and her future plans after this major achievement in her career life.
Tell us about your Kenyan roots and how you relocated to the US.
I have lived in different places back home but I was raised in Kapenguria,West Pokot.
I moved to the states because I got a green card and, you know ,they call it the land of greener pastures.
What inspired you to join the US Army. Had you ever thought of serving in the Kenyan Military and was this your dream career?
If you ever told me before that I would be in the military, I would have said no. It took some convincing but I wanted to go back to school and that was the main benefit that made me decide to join.
How was your experience during the training?
It was an experience phew!
Basic training took 10 weeks,basically it is the part where they transition you from being a civilian to being a soldier,you don’t have access to your phone or any type of electronic devices but your family is given their contacts just in case of emergencies. It is physically and mentally challenging and that is how it’s meant to be. After that is AIT where you’re trained for the specific job that you are supposed to do.The duration is also dependent on the specific job,in my case it was 16weeks.
Being a lady in a ‘male-dominated field’ what was it like for you?
Kazi ni kazi tu.
Tell us about your challenges and achievements during the training period.
My biggest challenge was I lost one of my mums while in training and I couldn’t say my goodbyes,it was a loss that is unexplainable and still hurts to date.
Any other achievement besides graduating from the Army?
B/A in Communication And Media from Egerton University.
Challenges as a Kenyan living in Diaspora. If none, tell us what you love about living in the US.
I have been blessed to meet amazing people who have hosted me and helped me in my transition,there’s always the good days and the bad days but bottom line,there’s no place like home.
Recently there has been protests in relation to racism. Do you have any personal experience you would like to share?
We discriminate according to tribe back home,here it’s the skin colour. Yes,some people decide who you are just by the colour of your skin and I see it almost everyday , it’s subtle,but it is there.
What are your future plans now that you have finally graduated?
Work on enrolling for online classes to get the 2nd degree I was aiming for.
What advice would you give to other Kenyans who would like to join the US Army?
Do your research,look at the pros and cons before you make up your mind.There’s different branches,with different benefits.I have seen enough people choose one branch then regret because another branch would have been a better fit.
Any advice for young Kenyan ladies who would look up to as their role model?
There’s nothing like frenemies,people are either for you or against you. Stay away from people who are not fully in your corner,I didn’t say people who disagree with your opinion,I said people who are not fully in your corner,read that again.
Favorite Kenyan meal
Ugali,sukuma wiki mixed with beef na maziwa.
Chapati and beans.
Favorite Kenyan song
Nyashinski-Lift me up
Favorite place to visit while in Kenya
Home,kwa mum na daddy. And anywhere my friends and family are plus they always know to have food for me lol.