Natural disasters and civil war: two life-altering events that would equate to monumental challenges for almost anyone.
But for 23-year-old Team Edwards member Senior Airman Prince Jarbo, not only did he fight through those challenges, but he has also thrived and saw those events as opportunities to improve himself.
Jarbo, assigned to the 412th Comptroller Squadron at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., began his journey in the small, war-ravaged country of Liberia, situated on the western portion of the African continent.
“It’s a whole different culture, a whole different setting than this, so I come from a very hard place,” Jarbo said. “So with the things that I have experienced, and the things that I’ve seen, I’m thankful for being here in America.”
Jarbo lived in Liberia until he was 12 years old when he moved to the U.S. in 2009. He would then return to Liberia for another four years in 2011, until finally settling back down stateside. He said his move back to Liberia was an eye-opener.
“In Liberia, I wouldn’t even have the option of choosing between schools, you only had one school because it was the only thing you could afford,” Jarbo explained. “There are so many options and so many things in America that people don’t sit down and appreciate and they forget the big picture.”
Jarbo acknowledged appreciating his time in Liberia as a teenager because he was more aware of the challenges and difficulties Liberians faced versus the type of life he had in the U.S. He expounded on recognizing at that age, the drastic differences in the quality of life between the two nations in something as simple as being able to eat three meals every day, as opposed to just once per day back in Liberia.
“That’s why I think it’s easier for me to go through life being appreciative and being more understanding,” Jarbo added.
Upon resettling back in the U.S., Jarbo decided to join the Air Force in 2017, and as he describes it, it has been “one of the coolest things” that he has ever done.
“As far as growing in my career, and doing what I want to do, this is the best decision I’ve made,” Jarbo said.
He went on to explain his thought process in deciding upon which career field to go in to and how it could affect his long-term goals for his life after the Air Force. Jarbo thought a career path in the finance field best suited his goals.
“I really thought it was something that I could apply when I get out of the Air Force,” he said. “I thought I should probably do a job that I can use outside of the Air Force and I chose finance because I thought it would be something applicable; in the government agencies you’re still going to need finance, if you’re working for yourself or in the private sector, you’re still going to need to learn finance.”
Prior to being assigned at Edwards, Jarbo’s first duty station was actually at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida.
“I was there for about eight months, then the hurricane happened.”
Hurricane Michael was a Category 5 hurricane that hit the south-eastern U.S. in October 2018 and contributed to more than $25 billion in damages and claimed at least 74 lives. Tyndall AFB itself suffered catastrophic damage. Base personnel, families and aircraft were evacuated prior to Michael making landfall. Jarbo was one of those evacuees.
“I know there are a lot of people who lost their homes, who lost everything,” he said. “But for me personally, it all happened for the best, I try to look at the good side of it.”
“I did lose everything; but I have people, different agencies and the Air Force who were generous enough to help me out,” he explained. “I was on evacuation orders for two months, spending time with my family in Georgia who I haven’t seen since I was 13.”
Jarbo was then given the option to either return to Tyndall or choose another duty station, he chose the latter.
“Well part of the reason I joined was to travel, so sign me up to move,” Jarbo joked. “So I chose to come to the west because I’ve never been here before and I wanted to see how far the Air Force could take me.”
Being stationed at Edwards in the middle of the Mojave Desert can seem like a daunting experience, but once again, Jarbo looked at the positive and saw how it could improve himself.
“I’ve lived in a big city, I’ve lived in the suburbs, it’s just time for me to live in the desert,” Jarbo said. “It’s just how I looked at it; now I’m going to have that experience of living in a desert.”
Jarbo’s personal experiences and challenges have also contributed to him starting his own non-profit organization called Project Change. Project Change is a group that works on “changing mindsets” in his home of Liberia. He believes it’s important for youth’s in Liberia to change their mindset and empower them.
“What we’re about is helping people realize that though we see ourselves as a country that’s been through many civil wars; we’re still people, we can take that initiative and bring change to our lives, we don’t always have to look for foreign aid, we’re still capable just as much as anyone else is capable,” he said.
“Let’s take the responsibility, let’s accept that ‘yes, bad things did happen,’ but we can still be responsible and become the self-sustaining nation that we once were. If we’re not self-sustaining, then there’s no hope for our country,” Jarbo added.
Jarbo explained that he came up with the idea for Project Change as a teenager in Liberia after seeing the need for such an organization. He said young Liberians complained about the poor economy and corrupt government.
“Which is all true; the economy is pretty bad, the government is pretty corrupt, but at the same time, complaining does not change anything,” Jarbo believed. “The complaining aspect of things is what we don’t want; we want to change that mindset in to people who will take that initiative for the better. We’re not saying you have to have all the answers, you just have to be willing to want to be a better person; and then we can all come up as a country.”
After living through a civil war and escaping a Category 5 hurricane, Jarbo has embodied Air Force Resilience. Through the many challenges he’s faced, he’s stayed positive, focused on his goals and more importantly, he has thrived; culminating in being promoted to Senior Airman in June “Below the Zone.” He said he is appreciative of his experience with Air Force and would encourage his children and siblings to consider the military.
“The least it can ever do for you is to teach you and to build a network of people around you that you can call friends and family,” Jarbo said. “That will never hurt you and that’s why I’m very appreciative I made this decision.”