“Challenged Every Day”: The Remarkable Journey Of A Kenyan West Point Graduate Enlisting In The U.S. Army

Duncan Makau


Duncan Makau was raised by a single mother in a small village in Kenya that had no electricity or running water. He did well in school, and received a scholarship to a national high school. He decided he wanted to pursue higher education in the United States, and a Google search revealed the opportunities available at the service academies. The Air Force liaison officer at the American Embassy in Nairobi helped him apply to the academies, and he was admitted to West Point. Arriving in America in June 2007 was a culture shock, compounded by his introduction to the Cadre during Beast Barracks at the Military Academy. After graduating, he returned to Kenya, but was refused a commission in their Army because he had no ties to their military. Frustrated, he returned to the United States and tried to join the U.S. Army, but could not get a security clearance. He then tried to enlist under the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) Program, but had to live in the United States for two years before enlisting, and his time at West Point did not count. While he was waiting to enlist, he earned an MBA. He was finally able to enlist, and completed Basic Training and Advanced Individual Training (where he was the Honor Graduate) before being posted to Ft. Carson. Throughout the whole process, his desire was to serve as an officer, but he was still unable to get a security clearance. While at Carson, he filed a lawsuit against Secretary of Defense James Mattis, claiming discrimination based on national origin. He was finally able to receive a security clearance, and a direct commission into the Finance Corps followed. In this interview, he talks about his childhood, the challenges of growing up in rural Kenya, and how his global outlook changed when he attended the national high school. He discusses his time at the Military Academy, and his struggle to join the U.S. Army and become an officer. Finally, he talks about what citizenship and West Point mean to him.


topics West Point History Courage African American Military Experience Race in the Military Community
interviewer David Siry
date 11 October 2018


name Duncan Makau
institution USMA
graduation year 2011
service Finance
unit 4th Engineer Battalion, Fort Carson
specialty International Cadet
service dates 2016