Face of Defense: Rwanda-Born Airman Finds Success in Service


When he was a youth in Rwanda, Karl Mutangana dreamed of achieving a better life.

From immigrant to Airman
Rwanda-born Air Force Senior Airman Karl Mutangana, a supply liaison for F-35 Lightning II aircraft parts with the 96th Logistics Readiness Squadron, poses for a photo at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., July 19, 2018. Mutangana’s photo was taken prior to his promotion. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.
From immigrant to Airman
From immigrant to Airman
Rwanda-born Air Force Senior Airman Karl Mutangana, a supply liaison for F-35 Lightning II aircraft parts with the 96th Logistics Readiness Squadron, poses for a photo at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., July 19, 2018. Mutangana’s photo was taken prior to his promotion. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.

Today, Mutangana successfully serves as a senior airman and supply liaison for F-35 Lightning II aircraft parts with the 96th Logistics Readiness Squadron here.

“I’m grateful. Being in the United States Air Force is an enlightening experience,” Mutangana said. “It’s rewarding to see what I do supports the test aircraft and a larger mission.”

Mutangana, 22, was born in Kigali, Rwanda, and is the eldest of five siblings.

“Growing up in Rwanda had its ups and downs,” he said. “Sometimes, we didn’t have anything to eat. The entire community would be without food, so it didn’t bother us as much. We didn’t dwell on it. We just lived.”

Mutangana was 11 years old when his mother moved to America. He remained in Rwanda with his grandmother.

Arrival in America

Eventually, after three immigration application denials, Mutangana was granted a permanent residence card and joined his mother and his America-born siblings in Connecticut in 2015.

“There are no words to express how I felt when I was reunited with my family,” he said. “It was the happiest moment of life to finally hug my mum and meet my siblings.”

Mutangana found himself drawn to the Air Force’s culture of integrity and leadership.

“I felt the Air Force would be a good platform to develop my leadership skills and further my education. It would be living my dream.” he said. “I always knew I wouldn’t stay in Rwanda forever. I wanted to open up and seek new opportunities.”

Despite some uncertainty about the requirements for joining the Air Force, Mutangana placed his hopes and dreams in what his mother always told him, “Anything you think of, dream of -- you can achieve it.”

Beginning of Success Story

“When the recruiter told me I was eligible. I knew it was the beginning of my success story,” Mutangana said. “I was glad for the opportunity to join the world's greatest Air force.”

Mutangana became an American citizen at his Air Force basic training graduation ceremony.

He was recently promoted to senior airman. His job as a liaison between suppliers ensures F-35 aircraft parts are prioritized according to mission needs.

“Mutangana was handpicked to help lead the new F-35 mission capable section here and he’s become a key player,” said Air Force Staff Sgt. Stephany Birkos, Mutangana’s supervisor. “He makes me proud. His motivation and passion are what our Air Force needs.”