How Tanwa Ashiru went from serving in the US Air Force to becoming a top security risk consultant in Nigeria
Tanwa Ashiru has broken the glass ceilings by all standards, treading the paths less likely to be trodden by women, especially millennial women.
She has experience serving in the US military and has used that experience to influence change, not minding the gender stereotypes and social and institutional barriers that keep women from achieving their career goals and becoming all that they aspire to be.
Tanwa grew up in Lagos and attended secondary school at Federal Government College, Ijanikin, Lagos. After secondary school, she travelled to the United States to attend university and ended up joining the military because of the great educational benefits, among others.
Her two older brothers were also serving in the US military so she got the support of her parents. That was how she ended up obtaining an M.A. in Intelligence Studies from American Military University’s (AMU) School of Security and Global Studies in West Virginia, graduating in 2016.
Following her graduation, she served for six and a half years in the Air Force, paid off her entire academic debts and then began to enjoy the benefits of a veteran.
Once her six-and-a-half-year tenure was over, she had the option to either re-enlist for an additional four years until completing a 20-year career or taking an honourable separation from the military. She chose to start life as a civilian and veteran.
She is now a veteran US Air Force officer, having garnered over 14 years of experience in Intelligence Analysis, and is attached to the US Department of Defense (DoD) and the National Security Agency (NSA) (NSA).
From Military to Advertising to Security/Defense
After her military experience, Tanwa moved back to Nigeria and ventured into advertising like her mother. But she soon learned that she was called for something greater than advertising. She was not satisfied with the lack of discipline and order that many creatives showcased. So after her NYSC service at the agency, she left.
Founding Bulwark Intelligence
She then founded Bulwark Intelligence in Lagos, an information services company that delivers security, intelligence, and threat assessments to the federal government and private companies.
The company also provides enterprise security risk management services to both private and public sector clients. Her services include risk assessments and advisory, intelligence reports, investigative services, cyber security, training, and security consultation.
How her military experience influenced her entrepreneurship
What makes Tanwa’s expertise unique is that she has experience serving in the military, having served for 180 days in Afghanistan. She participated in counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism operations in Southwest Asia, the Middle East, and Africa.
- Having received drills for 6 weeks, with little time to sleep and constant shouting, the physical and mental transformation of being pushed outside one’s comfort zone came with the confidence to overcome adversity. She later got a job in the intelligence field and enjoyed learning and growing in the community.
- After her full-time service, she briefly took a defence contracting job which required her to travel to Afghanistan for six months; which was a unique experience. She worked directly with the U.S. Marines Intelligence Unit, focusing on Counter Improvised Explosive Device (CIED) activities. At the time, CIEDs were the primary cause of fatalities of the Coalition Troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
- She was later involved as an intel (intelligence) analyst. She constantly heard about several IED attacks and their dreadful impact on the troops as many left and never came back. Every day that she woke up, she was able to take a deep breath and remembered to be grateful for life and recognise those who paid the ultimate sacrifice.
- Her morale was boosted in the military, however, as the military had a good welfare system. The troops deployed to the war theatres were well taken care of with hot meals and warm showers and were also paid extra for being in a war zone. This is why she’s often sad hearing about troops in war zones in Nigeria not getting paid or getting the proper equipment.
Today, Tanwa Ashiru is an exclusive member of the invite-only Golden Key International Honour Society; an elite honour society which honours academic excellence and a commitment to lead and serve. She also established a Nigerian-American Veteran’s Association (NAVA) as a platform for ex-military personnel to network.
Her take on the security situation in Nigeria
On the security situation in Nigeria, Tanwa says, “We’re always looking for that one silver bullet. The button which we can use to reset security across Nigeria is education.
- “I just think that if the government can prioritize education as much as they’re prioritizing and funding defence… we would see more young people get involved in productive activities and at the same time, we can start actually building the aircraft building the solutions, building the technical applications and so on.
- “There also needs to be a recruitment drive that needs to take place and much of this also needs to be restructured so that we can localize policing as much as possible because the police can tackle the issues within their communities”.