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George Akwei Mingle, a Ghanaian-born corpsman with Task Force 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 5, practices his architectural drawing at Combat Outpost Rawah, Iraq, Dec. 4 during his free time to keep his skills sharp as he begins his journey toward gaining his masters degree in architecture. Mingle, who moved to Alexandria, Va. after finishing his bachelor's degree in Ghana, hopes to eventually become an officer in the Seabees and establish himself as an independent architect.::r::::n::

Photo by Cpl. Sean P. Cummins

Ghanaian sailor hopes to build better future

6 Dec 2008 | Cpl. Sean P. Cummins

People of all backgrounds have helped build the branches of the military into what they are today, and some hope to help build what they will become tomorrow.

One corpsman attached to Task Force 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 5 left Ghana at the age of 26 to get his master’s degree in architecture, but now he finds himself aspiring to be a Navy Seabee.

After earning his bachelors degree at the Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Ghana, George Akwei Mingle decided it was time to further his education elsewhere.  Since most of the books he studied were written in America, moving to the United States seemed like an easy choice.

Mingle’s affection for architecture developed in high school, though he had been practicing art since he was very young.  The ability to mix art with science is what really appealed to him about architecture.

“I have a really good arts background.  I started sketching and drawing when I was 6 years old.  I can draw, paint and all that.  When I was in high school, my teachers urged me to continue in a fine arts program,” said Mingle, who is now 30.

Following his dream to become further educated elsewhere, Mingle moved to Alexandria, Va., where he started working and looking for schools while he waited for his degree to become accredited in America. Though he planned to move back to Ghana eventually, once he met his wife he realized it was time to put down his roots in his new home.

“Upon getting to Virginia, I wanted to further my education and I wanted to practice my profession.  After I realized what jobs were available where I was, I realized the military was the best place for me.  I know the military has a lot of benefits, and one of the things that really caught my attention was the opportunity to continue with school,” said Mingle.  “I decided to join to play my part, save as much money as I can and further my education, which is one of my prime objectives in coming here.”

Sometimes the needs of the military outweigh the desires of its service members, putting them in positions they hadn’t anticipated.  The lack of a U.S. citizenship kept Mingle from being accepted into the officer program and landed him a job as a corpsman.

Now that Mingle has gained his citizenship and has more knowledge about the military, he plans to put in a package to become an officer.  He wants to bring his knowledge of architecture and construction to the Navy Seabees, who handle construction projects for the Navy.

 “I want to join the Seabees because they are more into construction,” said Mingle. “In that case I will be serving, but I will also be doing what I really wanted to do and I’ll actually be practicing what I went to school for.  When I get to the Seabees, I can get some more hands-on training that will help build my experience.”

For now, Mingle’s focus is on gaining his master’s degree, but adds that going to the U.S. is different than going to school in Ghana.

“I think the most challenging thing has been school.  Prior to moving (to the U.S.), I never envisioned that it is hard to go to school over here.  I didn’t know that people can’t really afford education,” said Mingle. “In Ghana, when somebody tells you they’re going to school, they’re going to school full-time.  (In the U.S.), the majority of the people who are going to school are doing some sort of work to support themselves.  That’s what I think is really interesting.

“Eventually, I want to be able to come out as a licensed architect.  I want to be able to work independently, do my own designs.  If I should work with a company, I want to have that recognition to be able to be independent, where I can do my own stuff.  That’s where I want to be.”


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