Family, friends gather to celebrate during naturalization ceremony
27th Special Operations Wing Public Affairs
They are willing to fight for a country that they weren’t even citizens of. I wish all Americans felt that way about their country. — Capt. Kirk Thorsteinson
Two of Cannon’s Air Commandos and two military spouses became American citizens during a naturalization ceremony held at the Pecos Trail Dining Facility, March 20.
Two representatives from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services field office in Albuquerque, New Mexico, ventured to Cannon Air Force Base to present the four with their official U.S. citizenship paperwork during the ceremony.
As friends and family gathered to celebrate the momentous occasion with these four individuals, the lead speaker noted that for most, the road to citizenship normally comes on the day of their birth; for others, it takes a little longer to achieve.
“Our military liaison committee out of the Albuquerque field office has the sole purpose of identifying military members who need citizenship benefits and services,” said Jesse Mendez, USCIS Albuquerque field office director.
“The average time for military members or dependents to earn their naturalized citizenship really depends on how soon our office becomes aware of the member’s application; we make every effort to not only expedite the process afterward, but make the ceremony as special and significant as possible. It is Imperative that individuals seeking citizenship contact our committee as soon as they become interested in applying.”
All immigrants must first apply for and be granted the status of being a lawful permanent resident; however, not all are granted this status. After that, those approved typically wait five years before finalizing the naturalization process.
For those married to U.S. citizens, the wait is shortened to typically three years. This path is shortened even more for those who have chosen to devote a portion of their lives to the Armed Forces, serving with honor and defending a country they are not yet citizens of.
Once individuals meet the residency requirements, they are able to apply for naturalization to become U.S. citizens. On the day of their interview, they must demonstrate knowledge of the English language, including reading and writing, unless exempt. They must also show knowledge of our country’s history and government. Furthermore, they must be able to demonstrate they are of good moral character and subscribe to the principals of the U.S. Constitution.
“I would like to congratulate all of you on your accomplishment, wish you luck in your pursuit of the American dream, and thank your family and friends for their support,” Mendes stated. “We look forward to each of our new citizens making their unique contribution to the greatness of the United States of America.”
The following four applicants were presented with their U.S. citizenship, representing four countries of origin.
Natasa Lavor, wife of Staff Sgt. Jason Lavor, 727th Special Operations Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, was born in Montenegro. The two met while she was in college and he was stationed at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana.
Cynthia Gutierrez, wife of Capt. Raul Gutierrez, 551st Special Operations Squadron, was born in Chihuahua, Mexico. The two me while he was home on leave visiting family.
Airman 1st Class Dominik Green, 27th Special Operations Logistics Readiness Squadron storage and issue specialist, was born in Mannheim, Germany.
“This is a tremendous feeling and occasion for me,” he stated. “It is even more special to have everyone out here to share this moment of my life with me – especially my dad.”
Airman 1st Class Rehema Mburugu, 27th Special Operations Contracting Squadron contract specialist, was born in Kenya, and offered up similar sentiments.
“This is a huge deal for me,” she stated. “Gaining my citizenship means everything to me. I grew up in Kenya and never thought I would become an American citizen one day. I am the first person in my family to become a U.S. citizen - they are very proud of me.”
“I am so thankful to the Air Force; this is one of the biggest benefits it has given me,” she continued. “I am so proud to be an American Airman!”