Navy ensign loves Suffolk life

Published 9:15 pm Saturday, August 23, 2014

A Navy ensign originally from Nigeria said he enjoys living in Suffolk and treasures the opportunity he’s been given by the military to earn his bachelor’s degree while working.

Ensign Ajibade Olatokunbo is an educational services officer serving on the USS Gerald R. Ford’s pre-commissioning unit. He and 1,000 other sailors are slowly bringing the ship — christened at the Newport News Shipyard last November — to life. When complete in 2016, the aircraft carrier’s crew will number more than 4,500.



Olatokunbo coordinates training and educational programs and advancement opportunities for those on the ship. That includes administering exams for enlisted members, coordinating applications for promotions, ensuring those signing up for classes have taken the correct prerequisites, and more.

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He came to the United States more than 17 years ago through the Diversity Visa Lottery Program. It had always been his dream to earn his bachelor’s degree, he said.

“When I got here, I was going to go to UCLA, but it was too expensive,” he said. But people advised him to go into the military so he could get his school paid for.

He has been stationed in Bahrain and Italy and only moved to Virginia in April. He said his family likes it here in Virginia — particularly in their Suffolk neighborhood of Burbage Grant Estates — the best.

“When we moved here, my kids loved it,” he said. “They can ride their bikes all over Burbage Grant Estates. It’s more family-oriented. When the family is happy, I’m less worried.”

He said he thinks of the family’s new home as a “country lifestyle,” particularly compared to previous stations that were in big metro areas.

“It’s more family-oriented than any other place I’ve been stationed,” he said. “I’m used to city life.”

Olatokunbo said his experience here so far has been that Virginia’s summer “is more like winter in California,” and he’s already hoping the Virginia winter won’t be too harsh.

“I do better with warm weather,” he said. “Cold weather, I can’t stand it.”

The USS Gerald R. Ford is the first ship in its namesake class. It will measure more than three football fields long, weigh more than 100,000 tons and carry more than 75 aircraft.