Becoming An American The Army Way
by U.S. Army Emily Hileman
Fort Jackson Public Affairs Office
July 1, 2023
Twenty-five U.S. Army soldiers saw their dreams come
true in more ways than one as they became naturalized American
citizens during a naturalization ceremony prior to 1st Battalion,
34th Infantry Regiment’s Graduation on Fort Jackson on June 14,
June 14, 2023 -
Several of the 25 newly minted U.S. Army soldiers raise their hands to take the oath of citizenship
prior to the graduation ceremony for the 1st Battalion, 34th Infantry
Regiment. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Army photo by Nathan Clinebelle,
Fort Jackson Public Affairs Office.)
For many of us, being an American citizen
is all we know, but for others, it’s a distant dream and an uphill
battle. The newly-minted Soldiers decided to take advantage of the
Expedited Naturalization Executive Order signed into law by former
President George W. Bush on July 3, 2002.
order allows an exception to the usual requirements for
naturalization during times of armed conflict with a hostile foreign
force. Naturalization is the term for the legal process by which a
non-American may apply for and acquire American citizenship.
“They can apply for citizenship a couple of ways,” said Dr. Ken
Zimmerman, Fort Jackson supervisory security specialist said. “They
can go online and create an account and fill out their Form N-400 or
they can start the paper copy of Form N-400 and complete it here in
Form N-400 is the 20-page Application for
Naturalization and while there’s no shortcut for the form, the
process can be expedited during Basic Combat Training.
days after trainees arrive to Fort Jackson, all legal immigrants
receive a naturalization brief from their Battalion legal team.
“While they’re in basic training, they fill out the Form N-400
and their chain of command sends it to their battalion legal,”
“The legal assistants ensure the packets
are complete. The packets are then mailed off to the U.S.
Citizenship & Immigrations Services mailbox with a spreadsheet
containing the applicants’ information, so the field office can
begin working on them.” It is very much a team effort.
Trainees then work with their battalion points of contact and USCIS
to complete the process. Although it is expedited, applicants must
be fingerprinted, interviewed, and take the Naturalization exam,
which is a series of questions that span topics such as principles
of American democracy, the American system of government, rights and
responsibilities, history, geography, and holidays.
applicant has everything filled out, their biometrics are good …
they’ll do an interview and then they’ll be given their exam all by
a USCIS Officer,” Zimmerman explained. “Once they complete the
interview and pass the test, they receive a date when they’ll take
the Oath of Allegiance to the U.S. and become an American citizen.”
For those that are unable to complete the process in 10
weeks, there’s still hope. “There’s a high percentage that their
paperwork doesn’t come back within 10 weeks,” Zimmerman said. “Once
they get to their (Advanced Individual Training), they can go online
and update their address change, so the proper USCIS field office
can continue with their application. They can also call the Military
liaison at USCIS.”
Roughly, 11-12% of each training battalion
are legal immigrants, Zimmerman said. Not all immediately apply for
citizenship, but they’re able to apply at any time due to their
honorable service in the military.
“I feel so happy because
all of my life I wanted to be a US citizen,” said Pvt. Joovinx
Michel, who is originally from Haiti. “Now I get the opportunity, so
it’s a great day for me.” Michel has spent his entire life dreaming
of being an American citizen and serving in the Army.
chose to join the U.S. military because I want to serve and I want
to have so much opportunity for my life,” he said. Michel said his
family is also happy for him and many are traveling from Haiti to
watch his accomplishments unfold. “I have a lot of people coming. My
brother, cousins, uncle and my father are all coming from Haiti to
support me on the great day.”
Pvt. Ayram Aguilar from Mexico
said her stepfather’s dedication and service to the military
influenced her decision to join.
“He’s been a role model for
me most of my life,” she said. “And I want to be a role model for my
two daughters. This is a dream come true.”
Soumiyatou Mfonguie from Cameroon gave birth, she couldn’t imagine
being away from her daughter for more than a day, let alone 10
weeks, she said.
“I wasn’t sure if I was going to get through
it, but I’m here,” she said. “I don’t know how, but I’m here and I’m
so proud of myself. If you want to do something, nothing can stop
you,” Mfonguie said to those considering making the same decision
she did. “Everything, even the physical part, is in your mind.”
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