The journey of an aviator from Egypt to the US Air Force> Eielson Air Force Base> Post display
Never in a million years, Airman 1st Class Helbees Tawadrous would have thought that she would leave Egypt and find herself thousands of miles from home in the service of the US Air Force.
A Coptic Christian originally from Qena, a town on the banks of the Nile in Upper Egypt, Tawadrous’ options for living were determined by a series of societal norms and sometimes even laws that stifled opportunities and rewarded only those who were wealthy or well-connected.
Tawadrous’ family was neither.
“Much of Egyptian society was closed to me because of my faith, because I am a woman or because I come from a poor family,” said Tawadrous, a contracts specialist with 354 Contracting Squadron. “But living this way teaches you to work hard, to be grateful for what you have, and to take everything in life as an opportunity to improve yourself or take care of others.”
Unhindered by these social barriers, Tawadrous moved to Cairo to learn English in August 2007. A courageous move in a society where a woman pursuing an education continues to come under scrutiny.
In addition to being a native speaker of Egyptian Arabic, Tawadrous is fluent in Modern Standard Arabic and the Levantine dialect used in Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, and Jordan. She has used her gift of languages to work as an English-Arabic translator for an international newswire and for human rights groups that study religious freedom in the Middle East and advocate for victims of human rights violations. Eventually, she opened her own Arabic-English translation business.
“I monitored the Arabic-language media, translated government documents into English, and even translated a theology book from English to modern Standard Arabic,” she said. “I have also found and translated the anti-Christian propaganda and threats that ISIS has disseminated on the Internet.
In 2016, Tawadrous was living in Turkey with her husband who is a US Marine Corps veteran. An attempted coup made the country dangerous for those who did not actively support the Turkish government, especially those with ties to the United States.
“Around the same time that I gave birth to our son, one of our neighbors disappeared,” she said. “It was obvious that we had to go. My husband was hired by Stars and Stripes and we moved near Ramstein Air Base in Germany.
During this time, Tawadrous was introduced to the US Air Force. She was amazed that women, unlike Egypt, were allowed to join the service and enjoyed the same respect as men.
“What really encouraged me to join was seeing the leaflets they had all around the base announcing that the Air Force was in dire need of native speakers in essential languages like Arabic, ”Tawadrous said. “It made me think more seriously about membership. People kept telling me that I really had something to offer the Air Force that would make me precious to them.
In 2019, Tawadrous moved to the United States to help care for her ailing in-laws. With a long history of four-branch service dating back to the Army Air Corps during World War II, Tawadrous spoke with her husband and stepfather about the good, the bad, and the ugly of serving to ensure that she really wanted to continue enlisting. And she did.
Although Tawadrous’s intentions were to work as an Arabic cryptological language analyst, she was unfortunately reassigned to another career in basic military training.
As devastated as she was, Tawadrous got a job as a contract specialist, which matched her BA in Arabic Accounting from South Valley University in Qena.
With her background in accounting, Tawadrous feels she is a perfect fit for contracting.
“I really see every job, every task given to me as an opportunity to learn, to improve myself, to broaden my skills, to become a better person or simply to help others”, he said. she declared. “It might be my faith in God, but things will always turn in favor of people who work hard and make the active decision to be positive and goal-oriented.”
A year and three months later, Tawadrous’ journey in the Air Force continues and she even aspires to one day become an officer.
During the recent 2021 Arctic Lightning Air Show here in Eielson, Chief Master Sgt. John Lokken, the 354th Fighter Wing command chief, had the chance to meet and share a meaningful conversation with Tawadrous, who volunteered to be an entry controller for the event.
“What intrigued me was his patriotism. She’s an immigrant and she’s deeply rooted in her culture, but her love of the country and her pride in being an American aviator amazed me, ”said Lokken. “The diversity, maturity and life experiences of Tawadrous are such an asset to our strength. Sharing his story and his motivations with his peers will engender greater pride in our country and will strengthen our team. “
Tawadrous still vividly remembers when she first felt a strong sense of patriotism at BMT.
“The day we received our uniforms, when I put them on, I was overwhelmed with a sense of belonging,” she said. “The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services made me an American citizen, but the Air Force made me an American. “
Through all of her struggles in life, Tawadrous believes that they have only made her wiser, more resilient, and better equipped to handle any obstacles that might come her way.
“Coming from a [developing nation] and after traveling and living in other countries, I have learned to value all opportunities, even when things don’t work out the way I want them to, ”she said. “Getting the most out of any task is good for me and good for the mission. Every task, no matter how unpleasant, is an opportunity.