He might not have had a place to call home or the privilege of having academic certificates but Gregory Mutua, 33, has served in the US Army bases in Afghanistan, Iraq and Dubai.
He spent most of his early years in the streets of Nairobi, begging and rummaging through squalid dirt bins and tolerating harsh weather but today, he owns housing units in Dandora, has a family and 26 certificates from the US Army.
When Gregory was a street boy in Nairobi, in November 2003, Local Government Minister Karisa Maitha announced that the government would rehabilitate the street children and reintegrating them into society.
“We were taken to different National Youth Service, NYS, institutions. I was taken to Gilgil,” he narrates.
A total of 300 street children were taken away from the streets into NYS in Nairobi and Gilgil following the Maitha-driven rehabilitation drive.
The programme was conducted with the help of the then Nairobi Mayor Joe Aketch.
Gregory and others underwent rigorous paramilitary training in Gilgil for seven months. There were plans to take them through a metropolitan police training when they complete their training at NYS.
But when they completed their training, he says, the youth were taken for nation-building duty which included clean-up jobs, being security guards and other duties.
They were paid Sh500 a month and Sh200 was channelled to their accounts as savings.
It was while working as a Buldozer Operator in Kileleshwa, Nairobi from August 2007 to April 2009 when a friend told him about an agent called Silver Ray who was looking for NYS trained youth for jobs in Iraq.
“I went to the agent’s office at Agip House and gave my details” he said. He got a ticket and visa to travel to Iraq on June 21, 2009 and was taken to a US Military Base in Iraq as a security guard.
“That was the turning point of my life. I chose to train in weaponry while serving at the base from June till November 2010” Gregory said.
The training involved weaponry, basic First Aid, Radio Procedure Reporting, the Rules of the Use of Force, Health and Safety, the Law of Armed Conflict among others. Above all, he received an appreciation certificate from the US Department of the Army’s Base Defence Operation Centre 172nd Support Battalion and 172nd Infantry Brigade.
He worked at the Kalsu Camp in the Babylon State of Iraq as a security guard for the Sabre.
His contract with the company ended and he travelled back home.
He returned to the same agent who took him to Iraq and got a contract to work in Afghanistan as a bulldozer operator for a company called DynaCorp at the US Military Camp in Uruzgon Province.
“I worked there from 2012 to 2013 October when the contract ended. I came back to Kenya in November 2013.
“My going to those two countries changed my life. I married my wife Nancy Njeri in 2011 during one of the recess periods. We wedded at the Mathari Redeemed Gospel Church. We now have a beautiful daughter.
According to Gregory, it is his wife who manages the construction of their houses in a plot he bought in Dandora.
“We live in our own house and we also have rental units,” he adds.
At the beginning of last year, Gregory got a job with Tullow Oil in Turkana as a forklift operator.
However, the contract ended when the company halted the drilling of oil at the blocks.