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NEWS | Oct. 9, 2013

Airman builds partnerships using his Indian roots

By Senior Airman Dennis Sloan Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

Senior Airman Roshan Joseph is an aerospace propulsion maintainer with the 437th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Joint Base Charleston, S.C., where he makes sure all C-17 Globemaster III aircraft engines are in first-rate condition at all times, but more than 14 years ago he had never even stepped foot in the United States.

At the young age of 11 , Joseph and his family packed up only what they could carry and left of India to make a new home in the concrete jungle of Chicago, Illinois more than 8000 miles away.

"The large skyscrapers soaring high into the sky were definitely one of the first things I noticed when I arrived in Chicago," said Joseph.

Chicago is home to the third tallest skyline in the world but where Joseph came from, trees set the standard for towering height.

"The buildings and scenery were different for sure, but the pace at which everyone was moving really surprised me," said Joseph. "India has a more laid back and easy going culture to it, so Chicago's atmosphere was a polar opposite."

Aside from the scenery and mere culture differences, Joseph was about to face many more challenges.

"I thought things would be easier once I made it to the United States of America, but I was very wrong," said Joseph. "I knew English, but was taught more of British English than American English, so right away there was a language barrier on top of everything else."

Something as simple as a group of friends discussing where and what to get for lunch threw Joseph for a loop.

"I still remember the first time a friend of mine in school asked if I wanted to get a burger and fries," said Joseph. "What is a burger? I laugh at the situation now, because I really enjoy burgers, but at that moment I had never even heard of or eaten one before."

One thing Joseph welcomed with open arms was that his school teachers in America would not strike him with a ruler or stick if he answered a question incorrectly or failed to complete a homework assignment.

"When I found out that the teachers didn't handle situations like that so drastically I couldn't believe it, but didn't argue," Joseph jokingly said.

Joseph's mother had family living in Chicago who helped them with adjusting to the city and the new country. When Joseph entered high school he started to get more involved in clubs and extracurricular activities, which eventually led him to join his school's civil air patrol organization.

"I always loved the idea of flight and everything to do with it, so the civil air patrol really seemed like a great program," said Joseph.

After five years of actively participating in the civil air patrol, Joseph decided it was time to join the Air Force and that the aircraft maintenance career field would be a perfect fit for him.

"I knew I wanted to work on the engines and learn more about how such large aircraft could rocket off the ground with ease," said Joseph. "My parents weren't too excited to see me go."

Joseph left for basic military training in November of 2010 and by the middle of 2011 he was at his first duty location hands already dirty from maintaining C-17 engines.

"It was a good feeling to have my dream of working on aircraft become a reality," said Joseph.

What Joseph didn't know was that he would soon be combining his cultural background with his technical training to teach others in a very innovative way.

One of Joseph's supervisors knew he spoke several Indian languages and approached him about helping to train Indian Air Force Airmen.

"I was definitely honored to have been chosen to help with the program and was willing to do anything I could to get these airmen up to speed," said Joseph. "I never forgot my native language and knew this experience would only make me better at it."

The classes Joseph was teaching ranged from 15 to 20 Indian Air Force Airmen all looking to him for help and answers to their questions.

"I saw a lot of myself in the Indian Air Force Airmen," said Joseph. "When they come here to learn how to maintain the C-17 for their Air Force, they come across the same cultural differences I had experienced. I had to sit down with them and explain the reason behind why we do things a different way than they might."

Joseph has taught several Indian Air Force classes while assigned to JB Charleston. When previous class members of his return to the base with an Indian Air Force C-17 he takes his current class out to the aircraft to meet with the crew.

"I always want them to be able to see their fellow Airmen in the field doing the job," said Joseph. "It really gives them confidence in knowing they will be able to do the job."

Once the class is trained and qualified to maintain a C-17 they return to India to start their on the job training, but before they leave they always thank Joseph and give him a token of their appreciation.

"Working with Joseph is always a positive experience and we are very proud of him," said Praveen Singh, Indian Air Force Junior Warrant Officer.

"I've received anything from an Indian Air Force patch to a plaque and even a shot glass once," said Joseph. "It's sad to see them go, but I'm happier knowing I was able to help them make their Air Force better."

Joseph is still training Airmen from the Indian Air Force, but is always looking to the future. He hopes to become a flying crew chief someday, but enjoys what he is doing right now.

"Not only is Joseph strengthening NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) relations, but (he's) also bridging a gap between the Indian Air Force and United States Air Force," said Tech. Sgt. Robert Pennington, 373rd Training Squadron instructor.