JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas – Fourteen trainees in Basic Military Training here raised their right hands and are now the first to complete the new streamlined naturalization process making them U.S. citizens and allowing them to graduate as American Airmen.
Over the course of their 7.5 weeks of training in BMT, the trainees accomplished the necessary paperwork, took their citizenship test and their Oath of Allegiance. The first three accomplished their process as early as April 11, and the remaining trainees by April 25. All were formally recognized as U.S. citizens at the Airman’s Coin and Retreat Ceremony April 26.
Airman 1st Class Natalia Laziuk, 31, from Russia, was one of the first three Airmen to take the Oath of Allegiance and become a citizen. Laziuk said she had been dreaming of becoming a citizen since she was 11 years old.
“I will always be grateful for every opportunity I have here in the best country of the world,” she added.
These trainees’ citizenship ceremonies were much like any other – with only one difference: the person administering the oath was on a computer monitor, miles away.
The online process is part of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services' Naturalization at Basic Training Initiative that allows trainees the opportunity to become citizens before they graduate. It’s just one of several initiatives the Air Force is taking to remove barriers to service amid the current challenging recruiting environment.
“Their desire to become citizens exemplifies their commitment and dedication to the United States,” said Col. John P. O’Dell, 37th Training Wing vice commander. “When we began the partnership with USCIS, we asked all trainees who would be interested in starting their application, and 111 raised their hands. These trainees volunteered to serve a country they aren’t yet citizens of and now we get to formally recognize them upon their graduation as American Airmen.”
The 37th Training Wing partnered with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in March to reimplement the program after policy changes in 2017 changed processing timelines that affected a trainee’s ability to naturalize prior to graduation.
William Fischer, 737 TRG training director, emphasized the naturalization process begins with recruiters – long before trainees step foot in basic training.
“Recruiters can prepare the trainees before they arrive here so that trainees can bring all their necessary documents with them to BMT,” Fischer said. “This is important to help ensure participants can earn their citizenship before they graduate.”
Nearly the entire program is accessible online, making it more convenient for trainees to complete the application. New recruits can scan a QR code upon arrival at BMT and immediately create their USICS account and start their application. They also have a study guide at their fingertips – a 100-question sample test – loaded onto their tablets to help them prepare for the final test which they must complete, along with a virtual interview, before they can earn their U.S. citizenship.
The online program also serves as an advantage to those who don’t complete the naturalization process at BMT, as they can continue at their follow-on technical training or first operational assignment.
Airman Basic Miguel Angelo Flores decided to join the AIr Force to do something positive with his life. Flores found the Air Force to be a perfect fit for him.
“I am dedicating myself to my country,” said Flores, 22, from the Philippines.
The fourteen Airmen and their country of origin are:
Eva Nurten Akman, Turkey
Jonathan Andobolo Orozco, Mexico
D’Elbrah Assamoi, Cotedivoire
Jordan Flash, Jamaica
Miguel Angelo Flores, Philippines
Lionel Fogang, Cameroon
Joshua Fancisco, Philippines
Ivine Kiburi, Kenya
Natalia Laziuk, Russia
Ross Mudie, South Africa
Christian Munoz-Medina, El Salvador
Xitlaine Roache, Jamaica
Roel Watson, Jamaica
Teon Whyte, Jamaica
To learn more about the Naturalization Process at BMT visit https://www.uscis.gov/military/naturalization-through-military- service.