This article originally appeared in W&M News.
Army 2nd Lt. Philip Andoh ’22 was 15 when he left boarding school in his native Ghana to travel to the United States to join his family. In the time since, he enrolled at William & Mary, became a U.S. citizen, joined the Army reserves, contracted into the ROTC, earned his psychology degree, was commissioned into the Army and is on track to join the infantry ranks in the near future.
When asked recently to consider how far he’s come in six years, Andoh let out a loud laugh.
“When there’s a lot to do, you really don’t think about what you’ve done,” said Andoh, who is serving as a Gold Bar Recruiter at William & Mary in the months leading up to officer training school. “There are a lot of goals I’ve set for myself that I need to accomplish.”
Andoh credits W&M, particularly the university’s ROTC program, for helping him visualize his future in the armed forces and motivating him to set his sights high.
“It is virtually impossible to quantify the impact William & Mary has had on my life and career,” Andoh said. “And I can say with absolute certainty that getting an education here set me on a path of long-term self-development.”
W&M ROTC recruiter Scott Fee said he witnessed Andoh mature from a soft-spoken freshman looking for direction to a take-charge Army officer with a clear vision for his future.
“When I first met him, he didn’t have a lot of confidence. He just went with the flow,” Fee said. “But he’s done so much. He proved a lot of people wrong, including myself.”
As a Gold Bar Recruiter, Andoh helps educate prospective ROTC cadets on the different paths available to achieve their career goals.
There may not be a stronger advocate for the ROTC program than Andoh, who had no intention of a career in the military coming out of South Lakes High School in Reston, Virginia, where he spent two years after coming to the U.S. That was before, of course, he knew the doors that it would open for him.
“He’s an inspiration to the other cadets,” Fee said.
Andoh set his sights on an active-duty career in the military after a conversation with Fee his freshman year. Fee talked to Andoh about his options, about the different doors he could open by contracting into the ROTC.
Andoh gained U.S. citizenship in 2019 and joined the Army reserves a short time later during his sophomore year. There was one caveat: He had to take the spring semester off that year to go to basic training. He made that choice, and when he returned to William & Mary, he contracted into the ROTC with a clear career path in mind.
“I’d say I didn’t really have a lot structure in my life,” Andoh said. “I was all over the place, and I needed something. I needed a community. I needed something to keep me in line and teach me how the world works, essentially. And I thought ROTC was the best avenue to do that, and so far I think I was right.”
As a member of the Army reserves, Andoh was required to report to Fort Eustis one weekend a month, where he worked as an 88 Hotel Cargo Specialist, operating forklifts and cranes to load cargo onto ships trains and planes.
Juggling school, his ROTC commitments and the reserves was difficult, Andoh said, “but my leadership worked well with me to make sure I was not getting overwhelmed.”
Andoh showed a lot of dedication, Fee said, and he excelled at W&M ROTC’s advanced camp.
“That’s where we assess the leadership abilities and competencies of our cadets,” Fee said. “And he performed really well, so well that he got his first choice of duty assignment. He got active duty, which is very competitive. Not only that, he got infantry, which is a top-three requested branch by any cadet in the nation. People drool over getting infantry.”
‘Phenomenal young man’
Andoh said Fee has been a significant source of support throughout his journey. Fee, his wife Joanna and their two children have grown particularly close to Andoh. Like family almost.
Fee remembers inviting Andoh to spend a recent Christmas with him and his family when he learned Andoh would be alone in Williamsburg during the break.
They enjoyed a big spread of food and played card games, and the Fees purchased some gifts for Andoh to open.
“Spending Christmas with Scott and his family was great,” Andoh said. “It showed me that my leadership in the Army and ROTC really cared for their people, and I got to see him outside of the stereotypical Army role.”
In February, Andoh will begin the Infantry Basic Officer Leadership Course, and after that, he will be an infantry officer and eventually lead a unit of soldiers.
“He’s going to be in charge of and responsible for the well-being of over 40 to 50 people in his platoon,” Fee said. “And not only that, close to probably $3-6 million worth of government equipment, from vehicles to weapons systems. How many people can say that?”
In the span of only six years, Andoh has travelled far and wide to put himself on the doorstep of an achievement even Fee couldn’t have envisioned four years ago.
“Philip Andoh’s situation opened up my eyes to a lot of things,” Fee said. “Throughout his life he’s faced so much adversity and people saying ‘no you can’t.’ To see where he is now is just phenomenal.”