NORFOLK (NSA) – Matuwo Olufokunbi furthered a life-long dream that began when he was 17 on May 10, when he graduated from Old Dominion University with a 3.78 grade point average and earned his commission as an ensign in the U. S. Navy through the Seaman to Admiral (STA-21) program.
Olufokunbi, a Nigerian-born American citizen, began his naval career in January 2001, to establish his independence.
“My mom and dad were paying for my school and at some point I felt like I needed to be on my own,” said Olufokunbi. “Even though they wanted to pay for my school, I wanted to do something for myself, and I wanted a chance to be able to take care of them and be a man on my own.”
Olufokunbi started his Navy journey at Recruit Training Center in Great Lakes, Ill., and went on to graduate from Electronics Technician (ET) “A” School at Naval Technical Training Center, Great Lakes, Ill. He then attended ET “C” School at Fleet Training Center, San Diego, Calif., before reporting to USS Taylor (FFG 50) at Naval Station, Mayport, Fla. After advancing to ET2 while stationed onboard Taylor, Olufokunbi felt it was time for him to apply to become an officer.
“I was an electronics technician and I mastered my craft and knew my systems,” Olufokunbi said. “Originally I didn’t want to become an officer because I was comfortable. I began looking around and I asked myself, what can I do to make a difference?”
Olufokunbi said one thing he did was take on extra responsibilities.
“I became my division’s training petty officer while on USS Taylor to help increase the advancement rate in my division,” Olufokunbi said. “I became the command fitness leader, trying to do whatever I could to contribute. After a while I thought to myself, I could make a better impact being a division officer and being someone my shipmates could look up to. I know I could relate more to them because I have been there.”
Although he is proud of his diverse background, Olufokunbi, whose father is a native of Nigeria and mother is a native of Pensacola, Fla., said his goal is to be a role model for everyone, regardless of their ethnic background.
“I was brought up helping people by seeing my father and mother help people,” Olufokunbi said. “It has been a driving force behind me because everybody in my family does it. Seeing people actually succeed makes me happy, and that is why I am trying to be role model, to better my peers. It doesn’t matter who -- black, white, yellow, everybody – that is my mission.”
When it comes to opportunities in the Navy, Olufokunbi said the Navy offered him a level playing field.
“The Navy has been good to me personally,” Olufokunbi said. “But the way people operate is different based on the environment that is structured around them. Although I had some things said to me as a minority that aren’t acceptable, the advancement opportunity the Navy has provided so far has been more than fair.”
Olufokunbi added that he strongly believes his success was not based on the color of his skin, but on his work ethic.
“I think the Navy gives minorities enough opportunities to excel if they are qualified,” Olufokunbi said. “I believe am successful because of my personal abilities and not the color of my skin. My work ethic consists of a lot of prayer and hard work to master my craft. I took personal responsibility for my work. When the chief tells me to go home when my system is down, it is my system and I don’t want to go home because I am obligated to fix it.”