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5 AF basic trainees become U.S. citizens

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Associate Director Donald Monica administers the Oath of Allegiance to five basic trainees Aug. 25.  The trainees, from left to right, Jared Garcia, from the Philippines; Ariful Haque, Bangladesh; Louise Quinsay, Philippines; Kurt Danggoec, Philippines; and Daniela Negrete, Mexico, are the first Airmen to become U.S. citizens while attending Air Force Basic Military Training. (U.S. Air Force photo/Alan Boedeker)

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Associate Director Donald Monica administers the Oath of Allegiance to five basic trainees Aug. 25. The trainees, from left to right, Jared Garcia, from the Philippines; Ariful Haque, Bangladesh; Louise Quinsay, Philippines; Kurt Danggoec, Philippines; and Daniela Negrete, Mexico, are the first Airmen to become U.S. citizens while attending Air Force Basic Military Training. (U.S. Air Force photo/Alan Boedeker)

Lackland Air Force Base Texas -- Five basic trainees became U.S. citizens before graduating from Air Force Basic Military Training Aug. 26. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services' Naturalization at Basic Training initiative made it possible.

Prior to the Aug. 25 Airman's coin ceremony, when trainees make the transition to Airmen, the five trainees accepted the oath of allegiance during a special naturalization ceremony administered by Don Monica, USCIS associate director. They were the first members of the Air Force to use the USCIS' basic training initiative.

Louise Quinsay had raised his hand eight weeks earlier and swore an enlistment oath to uphold and defend the United States Constitution.

Quinsay, a natural citizen of the Philippines, wanted to serve his adopted country by joining the Air Force and becoming a U.S. citizen. Until last week, those two goals were achievable in the Air Force only as separate events and not at the same time.

"This is a wonderful opportunity for America's best and brightest young men and women not only to become Airmen, but also to become United States citizens at the same time," said Col. Eric Axelbank, 37th Training Wing commander.

"Awarding the Airman's coin signifies that we recognize the trainees' commitment to Air Force core values and we now refer to them as Airmen," said Axelbank. "What an inspiring moment to also witness our newest Airmen becoming American citizens in front of their friends and families."

A 2002 executive order states persons serving honorably in active-duty status are eligible to apply for naturalization and if qualified, be granted immediate citizenship.

Lt. Col. Glenn Palmer, 737th Training Group commander, said it is the right thing to do for those men and women who bravely raise their hand in service to our country.

"Serving in the Air Force requires all Airmen to make sacrifices," Palmer said. "An Airman's commitment to our core values of service, excellence and integrity are not based on place of birth, but upon selfless acts demonstrated by Louise Quinsay when he chose to serve our great nation.

"It seems right that those Airmen wanting to join our Air Force and wanting to become a U.S. citizen can do both at the same time."

Quinsay, 19, of Oakland, Calif., took his citizenship oath in front of about 3,000 people, including more than 500 of his fellow trainees.

"I think it is great opportunity to make my mother proud," Quinsay said. "It opens up a lot of doors to job opportunities, and it gives me the freedom to represent this country not only as a citizen but as a warrior Airman."

In addition to Quinsay, the other trainees becoming U.S. citizens were Daniela Negrete, a citizen of Mexico and resident of Oxnard, Calif.; Kurt Danggoec, a citizen of the Philippines and resident of Inglewood, Calif.;

Jared Garcia, citizen of the Philippines and resident of Pomona, Calif.; and Ariful Haque, a citizen of Bangladesh and resident of Flushing, N.Y.

A cooperative agreement between USCIS and the Army, Navy, and now the Air Force, has made possible a faster track for those services' trainees who seek citizenship.

"This initiative is just one example of our strong commitment to the men and women who serve in our armed forces," Monica said. "Additional training opportunities would not have been available to them had they remained foreign nationals in the U.S. military."

The initiative provides airmen with additional opportunities to serve in assignments and areas that maximize their value to the military and the nation. Since September 2001, more than 72,000 members of the military have become U.S. citizens during USCIS naturalization ceremonies held across the United States and in 20 countries abroad. (The 37th Training Wing Public Affairs Office contributed to this story.)