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Last Update: 5/8/2013 12:32 AM
By Will Spargur
Waikwong in Mali
In June of 1996 Waikwong Kan (Mali 1994-1996) had just finished two years of service as a water resource Engineer in Solosso in the south west of Mali. He had the adventure bug bad and couldn’t stomach the thought of taking up residence in some cubical for the rest of his life. Not after Peace Corps.
Waikwong was raised in Hong Kong. His family immigrated to the US when was 14. He went to Berkeley where he earned a degree in Civil Engineering in 1993 and a Masters in Environmental Engineering in 1994. Like many Peace Corps Volunteers he joined shortly after college driven by the desire for adventure and to serve. When he returned home from Mali his desire for adventure and service was as strong as ever and soon lead him to enlist in the Air force shortly after returning. Although some may think there’s a contradiction between Peace Corps service and military service Waikwong view both as honorable ways to serve his adopted country.
Waikwong also found that the military valued his Peace Corps service. His recruiter recognized Waikwong as a valuable asset to the military because nowadays armed forces are frequently called on for humanitarian missions and candidates who have a demonstrated ability to function effectively in often difficult conditions are highly sought after.
The Air force offered Waikwong the hands-on type of job that he was looking for. He became a bioenvironmental engineer and a flag commander. His job was to ensure the safety of the people who worked on base as well as the surrounding communities. He was always on the move inspecting bases around the country.
The military also provided Waikwong with ample opportunities to travel and continue his technical and cultural development. In 2005 he earned a Master of Science in Public Health courtesy of the Air Force. He was sent to Tunisia and Senegal to brush up on his French in the Language Enabled Airman Program (LEAP). And he was deployed for a short time in Iraq in 2008 but was not allowed to leave the base. Although he witnessed regular rocket propelled grenades shot over the walls the aim was so bad that it didn’t concern him too much.
After 10 years in the Air Force Waikwong was ready to move on. He was stationed in Georgia at the time. His parents who lived in California were getting older and we wanted to come home to be close to them. On March 2012 he resigned his commission and moved back to the Bay Area where he now works at Moffet Field as an Industrial Hygienist.
Waikwong recommends Peace Corps Volunteers consider military service. Their skills are needed because the military is working more and more in the developing world with local populations for humanitarian missions.