JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. —
Every Airman has a story as to why they decided to serve and the journey that goes along with it.
For Capt. Elie Elchartouni, 437th Maintenance Flight officer in charge, his journey started with a much different set of circumstances than most as he and his family waited 13 years to move to America from a country torn by a civil war.
Immigrating from Lebanon and becoming established in the United States is no easy task, but Elchartouni knew from a very young age he would eventually end up in the U.S.
“I am just one of thousands with an interesting journey,” said Elchartouni. “Our Air Force is as diverse as it is powerful.”
Elchartouni speaks Arabic and French, adding versatility to the force by often serving as a translator. One of the biggest hurdles in his journey was learning English.
“I went to a school that taught in French, but at the age of 18, I began to learn English, which proved to be a challenge,” said Elchartouni “But I eventually learned it.”
Elchartouni and his family settled in California. Once they arrived, he enrolled at San Jose State University where he completed his undergraduate degree in electrical engineering.
“Shortly after I finished my degree, an opportunity in Silicon Valley came up and before I knew it, I landed a job as an electrical engineer,” said Elchartouni. “After four years with the company, and achieving a six-figure income, I realized how many opportunities I had received in the states and decided it was time to give back.”
Elchartouni decided joining the military would be a way to honor his adoptive country, while still being able to work in his desired field and taking on a new challenge.
“I walked into the recruiter’s office and told her I had a degree and the languages I spoke,” said Elchartouni. “I asked, ‘Where do I sign? I’m ready to serve.’”
After commissioning through Officer Training School, he was stationed back in California where he continued to pursue his education and completed a master’s degree in engineering management at the University of California, Los Angeles.
As the 437th Maintenance Flight officer in charge, Elchartouini ensures that his 128-man team schedules home station checks on aircraft, refurbishes and maintains important aircraft components and performs crashed, disabled and damaged aircraft recovery for JB Charleston and Charleston International Airport.
“He is a very knowledgeable leader,” said Tony Ware, 437th Maintenance Flight assistant flight chief. “He genuinely cares for his team.”
According to Department of Defense demographics, the percentage of minority service members has been rising since 1995. As the diversity of the country expands, so does the diversity of its military.
“I was slightly nervous joining the Air Force and being Middle-Eastern,” said Elchartouni. “On the contrary, my fellow Airman have been very inclusive.”
The expertise and diversity of Airmen like Elchartouni makes America's Air Force the global leader it has grown to be. He exemplifies how U.S. Airmen quickly integrate, influence and lead at all levels.
“I wear the uniform with pride,” said Elchartouni. “I consider myself to be blessed with all of these opportunities. I never thought that I would be where I am today, but opportunities are everywhere in our nation. I am proud to call myself an American Airman.”