9th MSC hosts first military naturalization ceremony held on American Samoa soil

| September 10, 2010 | 0 Comments

Story and Photos by
Christina Douglas
9th Mission Support Command Public Affairs

U.S. Army reservists from the 9th MSC recite the Oath of Allegiance during the first-ever, military naturalization ceremony, Sept. 2. Forty-two Soldiers were naturalized in the event. UTULEI, American Samoa — Forty-two members of the U.S. Army Reserve’s 9th Mission Support Command were naturalized at the Governor H. Rex Lee auditorium, here, Sept. 2, in the first military naturalization ceremony ever held in American Samoa.

Fellow Soldiers, family members, friends and community leaders attended the ceremony to honor and congratulate their loved ones.

“This is a great day for American Samoa,” said Togiola Tulafono, American Samoa governor, in his address to the Soldiers. “This is the first time in my memory that any Samoan has ever been sworn in as a U.S. citizen on our soil, and that in itself makes history.”

Following the governor, Brig. Gen. Michele Compton, commanding general, 9th MSC, commended the Soldiers for their efforts.

“You represent the very best of all that our nation stands for: freedom, opportunity, equality and service,” Compton said. “I am honored to call you my comrades-in-arms and today, it is my privilege to call you my fellow citizens.”

The naturalization process was a combined effort between the U.S. Army Reserve’s 9th MSC and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

The process was initiated in October 2009, when Maj. John Adams, former Army Reserve Center installation commander, here, found out that some of his Soldiers, who had previously deployed to Iraq, had been unsuccessful in completing the naturalization process while in theater, according to Col. Michael Phipps, commander, Theater Support Group.

Adams said that the process would have required the Soldiers to travel, at their own expense, to Hawaii to complete the paperwork and the final interview process, Phipps said.

David Gulick, director of U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services, District 26, and two of his USCIS team members traveled to American Samoa to complete the final interviews for the Soldiers. Gulick also administered the Oath of Allegiance to the Soldiers, making their dreams of citizenship become a reality.

Staff Sgt. Rachael Manning, a supply sergeant, FSC, 411th Eng. Bn., recites the Oath of Allegiance during the military naturalization ceremony in American Samoa, Sept. 2. Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, qualified members of the U.S. armed forces are exempt from certain naturalization requirements, including residency and physical presence in the country. Service members who have served honorably on active duty or as a member of the Reserves on or after Sept. 11, 2001, are eligible to file for immediate citizenship under special wartime provisions in Section 329 of the INA.
Additionally, the National Defense Authorization Act of 2004 allows for overseas military naturalization ceremonies.

U.S. citizenship provides Soldiers with additional opportunities throughout the U.S. and within the Army, as some Army jobs require Soldiers to have their citizenship.

“Having your citizenship makes it much easier to get jobs in the U.S.,” said Pfc. Auvae Naomi, a supply specialist with the Forward Support Company, 411th Engineer Battalion, who added getting her citizenship is important because she wants to provide more opportunities for her children.  

For Staff Sgt. Rachael Manning, a supply sergeant in the TSG’s American Samoa Detachment, becoming a citizen will open new doors of opportunity for her career in the military.

“Now I can finally say I’m a U.S. citizen,” Manning said. “I’m grateful to the TSG and USCIS for their efforts and for bringing this ceremony to my hometown, so my family could be here to see me when it happened.”

Category: News

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