The future appears bright for 26-year-old Omba Ngoma — recently and happily married, doting father of an active toddler, gainfully employed in a rewarding job, months away from a college degree. It might be difficult for one to phantom the darkness and turmoil this Alton resident has recently experienced.
Omba is a refugee from Burndi, Africa. In the midst of political strife, his family fled to America in 1994 when he was just a child. Throughout the violence and the civil wars, Omba vividly recalls policemen and soldiers running toward the conflict– and not away from it– in an effort to neutralize it. Those graphic images remained with Omba for years, and would become the impetus for him to gravitate toward a life of public service. Moving to and from various places in the United States such as New York, Washington, DC and Virginia Beach, Omba landed in St. Louis in 2005 to attend Principia School Upper School. Upon graduation in 2007, he enlisted in the Army the following January, completed Basic Training, and was deployed in September 2009 with the 229th Military Police Company in North Virginia Beach. Shortly afterward, Omba was deployed to Baghdad, Iraq, with a protective service detail as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
When Operation Iraqi Freedom ended in 2010, Omba returned to Virginia Beach for additional training. He sought to continue his education, and with no family nearby, sent out applications to a handful of colleges around the country, and was accepted to Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville, completing most, but not all of his studies. It was also at SIU that he met his future wife, Allison. The couple currently reside in Alton where Omba is a police officer and a Specialist – E-4 with the Army National Guard, and Allison is a real estate agent with RE/MAX River Bend. Omba also attended and was graduated top in his class from Southwestern Illinois Police Academy in Belleville. The couple have been married 18 months and are the proud parents of an eight-month old boy, Neyo.
Omba did not suffer physical injuries during his deployments, but found himself having difficulty adjusting to being away from the military. He suffered from frequent bouts of mistrust, anger and depression. Near the end of Operation Iraqi Freedom, one of his close platoon mates committed suicide, an act that still weighs heavily on Omba’s mind. Omba had trouble withdrawing from what he calls the “alert state of mind” that was crucial during his service, and settling into the slower tempo of civilian life. The bouts of anger and depression began to take a heavy toll on his work and personal life, yet Omba continued to try and pass them off as a “normal” part of integrating back into daily life.
During a particularly trying time, Omba realized that he needed to face his problem or it would become an increasingly bad situation. He says, “The most important thing is that you have to ‘admit and acknowledge’ that you have a problem.” Having taken that crucial step, Omba recalled some information he had learned from the Army’s Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program, a resource to assist military families by connecting them with resources throughout the deployment cycle. He discovered Military OneSource, a 24-hour call hotline staffed with consultants familiar with the military lifestyle. Omba utilized the counseling services they offered and credits them with helping him deal with his anger and stress and reintegration into daily life. He slowly began to overcome his issues and became more hopeful toward his life and future. He still on occasion utilizes the counseling service, which also offers assistance with not only reintegration, but job placement, parenting, budgeting and health issues.
With a renewed outlook on life, Omba is continuing his online studies with SIU and is slated to graduate later this year with a B.A. degree in Information Technology. When asked what his plans were after graduation–Omba replied he had “tunnel vision” and was just focused on finishing school. He did allude to the fact that he was open to returning to the Army as a full time career, continuing in law enforcement, or even seeking a position with the Federal Government. Whichever route Omba seeks, the future appears bright, thanks to his perseverance and desire to serve the public. He stresses to those who are considering enlisting and to those in the deployment stage not be afraid to seek help. Service members and their families can access the MilitaryOneSource program at www.MilitaryOneSource.com or by calling 1-800-342-9647.
Thank you, Omba, for your role in helping to get the word out.
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