MSgt travels tough road to Air Force|
Posted 2/3/2012 Updated 2/3/2012
by Airman 1st Class David Owsianka
56th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
2/3/2012 - LUKE AIR FORCE BASE -- Imagine growing up without running water, spotty electricity and using candles on a regular basis. What about having to kick away rats and build fires to fight off cockroaches to use the outhouse at night.
These were just some of the challenges Master Sgt. Robert Frampton, 107th Air Control Squadron Air National Guard maintenance technician, dealt with growing up in Belize in a three bedroom house with his two siblings, mother, three aunts, uncle and grandmother.
"I think sometimes hardships make us stronger," he said. "My past has taught me to never quit, not give up, stay true to self and never forget what your parents taught you."
The 32-year Air Force veteran's grandparent's immigrated from Scotland and Germany. A majority of the population in Belize is African, and because he is fairskinned, he stood out like a sore thumb.
"I would get picked on daily and get into fights often," he said. "At times I received racial slurs, and guys spat in their hands and smacked me on the back of my head."
"Even though it was hurtful dealing with that at a young age, it helped me become aware of how it's wrong to treat someone differently," he said.
Not having much money, he and his cousins had to find ways to keep busy.
They would go fishing, walk across railroad tracks, over canals to see if they could get across without falling in, swam in the mucky river water to cool off during summer, and do other activities.
When he was 9, a devastating hurricane passed through his home town and the family almost perished.
With 25-feet of water surrounding the house, the family survived on limited supplies for days.
Days after the hurricane, an American helicopter dropped supplies for the family.
"I still remember being extremely hungry and thirsty when the supplies arrived," Frampton said. "The first thing I ate was a sweet roll and it tasted like the best thing on Earth."
The incident with Americans influenced him to come to America when he left home.
"I was fascinated by them," he said. "I wanted to have a job like them one day."
He left home with a pair of underwear, socks, a T-shirt, extra pants, a mango and $250 stuffed into a backpack.
Traveling to America was a terrifying experience for Frampton.
He was yanked from the bus three times by gangs and had to give them money to get his passport and belongings back.
"The worst experience was when police took me off the bus at 2 in the morning," he said. "They dragged me to a shack, put a gun to my neck and asked 'What's your life worth?'"
After being interrogated, the police threw his passport at his chest and released him.
"I didn't want to fail in the eyes of my parents and I think it kept me from going back," he said.
He ran to a town and got on a bus and crossed the border into America. He stepped off the bus in Phoenix.
"I didn't have anywhere to go, no money, and nobody to help me," he said. "I also had no idea there were places to get free food."
After three days of eating nothing but jello, Frampton was helped by a woman. She gave him $22 after he cleaned a wash room.
He left for San Francisco after several months.
The family he was to stay with turned him away on a cold, wet December night.
"I was tired, cold and scared. If they didn't take me in I had nowhere to go," Frampton said. "The mother of the family had a friend who gave me a place to stay."
Frampton's new home was inside a furniture store. He slept on a blanket underneath a table.
He moved to Los Angeles but had no better luck there before deciding to move back to Phoenix.
Back in Phoenix Frampton enrolled at Maricopa Community College to pursue a career in technical drafting.
After taking several courses he began working at a company that kept blue prints of the city's underground and above ground cables.
Six months into his new job he went to a recruiter to join the military.
By then he was married with a son, so he joined the Air National Guard at 26.
He soon became a permanent resident and with his green card in hand, he went to see an Air Force recruiter. He joined in September 1978.
Even after Frampton moved back to Phoenix, got married and joined the Air Force, he still faced struggles.
He was divorced and became a single parent.
Working at Honeywell and performing his guard duties one weekend a month made it difficult for Frampton to raise his children.
Money was tight at Christmas time; he wondered where he would get gifts for them.
On Christmas Eve there was a knock at the door. A chief master sergeant from his unit was holding two bags filled with toys.
"He didn't know me that well and for him to do that was amazing," Frampton said. "It brought tears to my eyes."
Five years into his career, Frampton hit another speed bump when he discovered he couldn't stay in his radar electronic and mechanic position without a secret security clearance. He didn't have the clearance because he wasn't an America citizen.
"When I found out, it was a no-brainer for me, he said. "I did what I needed to do; I applied for citizenship and became a citizen Oct. 19, 1984."
His journey to become a United States Air Force leader is nothing less than inspirational, according to Capt. Michael Mansfield, 107th ACS chief of maintenance. "When reflecting on the fact that he became a U.S. citizen years after joining our Air Force inspires me, because it's not a typical path for Airmen, and it reminds me of how proud I am to be an American," he said.
Frampton feels that sometimes hardships can make people stronger. He has learned to never quit or give up, stay true to himself and never forget what his parents taught him.
"I am thankful to be an American, and it makes me feel great when I say that I am," he said.