Joint Base Charleston


From Uzbekistan with love

By Airman 1st Class Tom Brading | Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs | August 26, 2012

JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. -- More than six years ago, Ildar Ibragimov left Uzbekistan, one of the former Soviet Union republics, with very little money, a Diversity Immigrant Visa and one-way plane ticket to the United States. Unable to speak English and knowing very little about American culture, Ibragimov risked it all in hopes of a better life in America.

The DIV program is a lottery for receiving a U.S. permanent resident card. It is often referred to as the green card lottery. The program awards 55,000 permanent resident visas annually to natives of countries deemed to have low rates of immigration to the United States.

"America is filled with opportunities," said Ibragimov. "In the United States, people can be who they want to be, as long as they put forth an effort. It was such a relief. Even though I had very little, I still had hope."

The first time Ibragimov got a hint of American culture was from watching the film, "Star Wars" in theaters as a teenager, more than a decade after its original release.
Once Ibragimov arrived in the United States, he moved in with distant relatives in Tampa Bay, Fla. Living out of a small bedroom, he was unable to use his computer software engineering degree he earned in Uzbekistan to obtain a job. So, he took a job as a dishwasher at an Italian restaurant.

"I didn't mind washing dishes," said Ibragimov. "To me, coming to America was a dream, and if having that dream meant I had to start from the bottom; then that's what I would do."
Even though the pay wasn't great and the work wasn't very challenging, he was happy to have the job. He knew it was his first step up the ladder of living his American dream. So, from that day on, he looked for new challenges in life to overcome and his next goal was to become a military officer.

"I went from dishwasher to officer in less than five years," said Ibragimov. "I couldn't become an officer immediately though, so, I enlisted into the Air Force in 2006."
During his enlistment as an Airman, Ibragimov didn't let a language barrier slow him down. He credits the supportive group of Airmen he worked with, along with the TV show, "King of Queens" for his ability to speak English fluently.

"Watching 'King of Queens' helped me to better understand the English language and apply this knowledge to day-to-day situations," said Ibragimov. "I know it sounds silly, but it's the little things about American culture, such as watching that show, that has really helped me transition into being a part of the culture."

Ibragimov enlisted as a health-care management apprentice and although his enlistment was short, it was packed full of accomplishments. He met former President George W. Bush during the former president's visit to San Antonio, Texas after participating in the patient airlift mission during Hurricane Gustav. Ibragimov also received his American citizenship and continued his education, earning his master's degree. He used his degree to transition to the officer community.

"Becoming a commissioned officer was one of the two greatest moments of my life," said Ibragimov. "The other moment was being selected for a Diversity Immigrant Visa. However, being an officer in the Air Force is an honor."

Today, 2nd Lt. Ildar Ibragimov, 628th Medical Support Squadron medical information systems flight commander, is committed to the mission. And although, Ibragimov has worked hard for his success ... from the economic hardships of the former Soviet Union, to washing dishes part time, to finding career progression among the ranks of the U.S. Air Force ... life wasn't easy.

But it has been an adventure.

"Life is an adventure and I've enjoyed every minute of it," said Ibragimov. "I'm constantly trying to challenge myself more and more, both personally and professionally. In life, I ask myself 'can I do this?' and even when I doubt myself, I still try. For anyone wanting to become an officer, I challenge you to perform the best you can, so you can set yourself apart from everyone. Have determination and always stay on course. Remember, that's the beauty of America. You have the opportunity to be the person you want to be. I am an example of that and all of the Airmen I work with are too."

Staying Connected