Photo Information

U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Paul Nhomba, left, mobility chief with the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory, sets the example for Pfc. Kaden Maddox, a logistics specialist with MCWL, during a physical training session at the Barber Physical Activity Center, on Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., Feb. 2, 2024. Nhomba was born and raised in Cameroon; shortly after moving to the U.S., he achieved full citizenship while serving in the U.S. Marine Corps. Nhmoba is described by Maddox as one who “leads by example and won’t ask someone to do anything that he wouldn’t do himself.” (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Levi Voss)

Photo by Sgt. Levi Voss

From Cameroon to “Cammies”: One Marine’s Journey

23 Feb 2024 | Sgt. Levi Voss Marine Corps Recruiting Command

The clacking of a keyboard, the steady pounding of shoes during a long run, the sound of a turning page; these are all sounds that are universal. No matter where you hear them, they sound the same. So, what separates Sgt. Paul Nhomba from the rest of the workers, runners and readers of the Marine Corps? While he now hears these noises on American soil, they rang out in his home country of Cameroon for most of his life.

Nhomba, a mobility chief with the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory, started his journey at the age of 20 when he decided to move to America from Cameroon to further pursue his education. He made the move secretly, and when he arrived, he soon learned of the intangible benefits he could gain from serving his new country by enlisting in the United States Marine Corps. Benefits that included physical fitness, comradery, and even citizenship.

“I [actually] left without letting anyone know,” recalled Nhomba. “I just disappeared for a week, then I called my parents and told them, ‘I’m in the U.S.,’ and they didn’t believe me.”

To say there was a language barrier would be the most accurate. By his own admission, Nhomba knew exactly no English.

“Before I joined the Marine Corps, I was just doing jobs here and there to get the language down,” said Nhomba.

Nhomba added that already knowing how to speak French and his native tongue, Basaa, was helpful. Aside from the languages, growing up in Cameroon also instilled in him a devoted work ethic and an unwavering loyalty to those who mean the most to him. Two characteristics that would immediately accelerate his Marine Corps career, as he earned the “Chesty Puller Award” for being the most physically fit recruit in recruit training. Earning him a meritorious promotion to private first class.

Furthermore, his background also prepared him for the diversity in culture and thought that he would experience in the Marine Corps. Allowing him to be the best leader he could be. According to his subordinates, Nhomba is an outstanding leader who cares about his Marines.

“His leadership style is great; he leads by example,” said Pfc. Kaden Maddox, a logistics specialist at MCWL, and Nhomba’s Marine. “He won’t make me do anything that he isn’t willing to do himself.”

These are semantics; if you look strictly at “the numbers,” Nhomba is arguably even more exceptional a Marine. His awards and attributions include the aforementioned “Chesty Puller Award” in recruit training and a certificate of commendation for being named the honor graduate of class 27-18 Marine Combat Training. During his initial military occupational training, Nhomba earned a meritorious mast and a Humanitarian Service Medal for support during Hurricane Florence. Most recently, he received a certificate of commendation while serving as a linguist during joint training with the French 27th Mountain Infantry Brigade at Mountain Training Exercise 1-24.

“When I think of Sgt. Nhomba, the traits I think about are things like courage, enthusiasm and judgment,” said Master Sgt. Aaron Miller, logistics chief with MCWL. “Being in this career field already takes a certain breed of individual, - the top 1%. So, to have somebody make the trek to the U.S., then say, ‘that isn’t far enough, now I have to be the best of the best,’ takes a certain character that is hard to put into words.”

Ultimately Nhomba attributes most of his success to his diverse background. He also acknowledges the fact that he had kept his dreams protected so as not to be talked-out of them by the people he cares the most about.

“Sometimes to succeed, you must do things in secret. Because people who don’t understand your vision or where you’re going will try and stop you,” said Nhomba. “They do it out of love without understanding where you’re trying to end up.”

Now that Nhomba is knee-deep in his dreams, so to speak, those who would have maybe tried to hinder his pursuit are also benefiting from his determination.

“I send money back to my parents every paycheck,” said Nhomba. “It works out well, too, because when I visit, they’re really proud to show people, ‘This is my son! Look what he’s doing; look where he’s going!’”
Where Nhomba is going is the most important thing in his journey. While he enjoys the pursuit and being a Marine, he keeps his eyes looking to the future.

“I’d like to end up in medical school,” said Nhomba, “Right now, I am using my tuition assistance to study [bio-chemistry]; when I’m done with that, I’ll try and go to medical school.”

Nhomba is expressive in his support for those seeking a path to citizenship through service. Reflecting on service, he feels proud to have a chance to serve the country that gave him so many opportunities.
“I think this is the greatest way you can give back to a country that welcomed you,” Nhomba admitted. “By answering the call and giving back something, whether that’s one contract or 20+ years.”

People often say, ‘thank you for your service,’ to members of the American military. To Nhomba, his service is his way of saying thank you to his country.

When asked what sort of feelings he gets when he thinks about the fact that he is an American, Nhomba didn’t hesitate, “For me, I consider America as the greatest nation in the world. So, being able to say I am part of the greatest nation in the world and the greatest military in the world - now that’s a flex. I say it loud and clear. I am very proud.”

For information regarding joining the Marine Corps call 1-800-MARINES.

Editor’s note:
To join the Marine Corps if you are not a U.S. citizen you must:
• Have a U.S. Permanent Resident Card
• Speak, read, and write English fluently
You cannot join the Marine Corps to enter the U.S. or to obtain a Visa.

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