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NCANG recruiters witness 48 immigrants become US citizens

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Mary McKnight
  • 145th Airlift Wing

Four recruiters from the 145th Airlift Wing observed 48 immigrants taking their oath to become naturalized citizens of the United States (U.S.) on Nov. 16, 2023, at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office in Charlotte, N.C.

After years of anticipation, filling out paperwork and paying fees towards their citizenship, the 48 immigrants representing nearly 25 countries, raised their right hands to take their oath and three minutes later they were all declared U.S. citizens.

The brevity of the oath is not indicative of its significance; the power it holds extends to numerous opportunities, including the option of joining America’s armed forces. Enlisting in the armed forces can expedite the pathway to citizenship.

The 145th AW has multiple Airmen who can attest to this process and Master Sgt. Francis J. Strother, recruiting flight chief, 145th Force Support Services, can speak to it from a personal and professional viewpoint.

“This process is near and dear to my heart,” said Strother. “In addition to this platform being a great recruitment tool to attract qualified candidates, I was there to express gratitude to this great country and allow my troops to witness the naturalization process in person.”

Strother did not utilize this program to become a naturalized citizen himself, but as a naturalized citizen, he can appreciate the expediency and savings that come along with becoming an American citizen by joining the military.

“The Department of Defense and the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services collaborated by expediting the naturalization process and waiving the fees when signing up to serve your country,” said Strother. “To take advantage of this program an immigrant must have their 10-year permanent residency card. Outside of this program, you have to wait five years before applying for citizenship and pay over $1000 in fees.”

Senior Airman Baker, material handler, 145th Logistics Readiness Squadron, bypassed the five years and fees, by joining the North Carolina Air National Guard (NCANG) and expediting his citizenship process.

“I came to America for opportunities,” said Baker. “After being in America, I decided to get my citizenship for access to more opportunities.”

What better opportunity than joining the military: citizenship, paid training, and gaining a family? This wasn't Baker's verbiage when searching for military opportunities, but in his search he found the NCANG.

“I googled stateside military,” said Baker. “The first thing that populated was the Air National Guard, I never heard about it but I called and in April 2019 I enlisted.”

Three years after being in America, Baker enlisted into the NCANG and in January 2021, he received his citizenship.

This means even with a three-year delay Baker was still able to earn his citizenship and income, within the five-year waiting period of someone not joining the armed forces applying for their citizenship.

“I was watching a video that says who is the best person to dive into the unknown,” said Baker. “A migrant. I'm not saying join the military, but I am saying don’t be afraid. When I joined the military I found a family away from home,” he continues, “I can say this flat out, joining the military to get our citizenship is the best way, not just for the citizenship, but financial stability, job guarantee, and a sense of community.”