Ghana Marines finish together
By Sgt. Charles E. Moore
| | December 13, 2002
MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO, Calif. --
The Marine Corps draws recruits from all walks of life, all over the United States and even from distant partrs of the world.
Two of the Marines graduating today even come from a different country.
PFC's Akwetey Akrong and Oko Akrong, Platoon 1125, Co. D, hail from Ghana, a small country in West Africa.
It is easy to see that the Akrongs are related. The fraternal twin brothers look more like identical twins. The only glaring difference is Akwetey has a thinner frame than his brother.
That doesn't mean Oko needs to lose weight. Oko entered recruit training at more than 210 pounds. He now keeps 170 pounds on his 5-foot-9-inch frame, about five pounds more than his brother.
It becomes obvious how close they are when the brothers speak. Even their speech patterns and voices sound the same. They finish each other's sentences and complete each other's thoughts. Their mannerisms and expressions also look the same.
The twins came to the United States before their third birthday and settled in Chicago. They grew up speaking English and two native Ghana languages, Fante and Twi. Their parents divorced when they were ten and their father moved back to Ghana. The pair would soon follow.
Following their parents divorce their grades had been on a steady decline and they were becoming a discipline problem in school. Oko was even in danger of being held back a year. Their mother thought it would be best for both of the 11-year-olds if they went back to Ghana for school.
"I was O.K., but my brother was about to fail," Akwetey said.
"I was about to repeat sixth grade," Oko agreed. "I could barely read."
The twins soon learned they weren't going to be able to skate by doing the minimum amount of work to pass.
"In (Ghana), children are caned if they don't do their homework." Akwetey said. "Our first week back we didn't do our French homework ..."
"We got 12 lashes each," Oko finished. "It really helped."
They said they weren't really prepared for the different culture.
"At first it was really hard," Akwetey said.
"Our father kind of lied to us," Oko said. "He said it was just like America."
They soon found their niche and made several friends. They also fell into a routine and learned how to keep themselves out of trouble.
"The discipline (the teachers) instill is not much different than boot camp," Oko said. "It's all about respect."
The twins shaped up and soon began to excel academically. They said the educational system is very competitive. Semester grades are posted for everyone to see. Whenever grades were posted they would see where they ranked and also look to see who around them ranked lower. They said students were more competitive about grades in Ghana than the states.
They moved back to Chicago when they were 16 and easily transitioned back to life in the U.S.
"We adjusted very well," Oko said. "We had a lot of friends."
They also had an improved work ethic. They took advanced placement and honors courses in high school and also graduated with a cumulative grade point average over 3.6.
During high school, a recruiter contacted Oko first. After talking with the recruiter, Oko thought the Marines would be a good idea, and would help him get started with his life. But he wanted his brother to come along.
Akwetey soon talked with the recruiter and also thought the idea of becoming a Marine sounded good, plus his brother was doing it.
Akwetey said, "I've been with my brother all my life so. ..."
"Four more years wouldn't hurt," Oko finished.
"Yes, four more years," Akwetey laughed.
The two soon had second thoughts while in boot camp.
"Everyday, I just said, 'Why'd I join? Why'd I listen to the recruiter?'" Oko said. "I was just so tired."
He found support in his brother.
"We're kind of competitive," Oko said. "If he tries something, I'm going to try harder."
"If he's doing something, I know I can do it," Akwetey countered.
The pair may have had a different starting point than the rest of the recruits they began training with three months ago, but they will have the same ending as they walk across the Parade Deck today as United States Marines.