Non-citizen Airman at Whiteman

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo., -- Every day we wake up and put our uniform on to "go to work." For some of us military life is just a job, for others it's a way of life.

Some of us have goals to serve 20 or more years in the Air Force and some of us will only serve four. Whether you are here for a short time or plan to hunker down for the long-haul most of us serve our country honorably and faithfully as citizens, but what about those who serve this country when they are not even citizens yet?

Five members at Whiteman Air Force Base are currently non-citizens of the United States. Has it ever crossed your mind what one must go through in order to become a citizen? U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and AFPC publish Web sites that walk an applicant through this intense process. For people serving in the military that process has been drastically reduced, but it still requires effort, time, patience and desire.

USCIS states that military members may apply for naturalization if they have served honorably in the U.S. armed forces; are 18 or older; are able to read, write, and speak basic English; have a knowledge of U.S. history and government (civics); have been a person of good moral character during all relevant periods under the law; have an attachment to the principles of the U.S. Constitution and be well disposed to the good order and happiness of the U.S. during all relevant periods under the law. Once those are met an applicant may submit a N-400, Application for Naturalization.

Airman 1st Class Mark Javier, 509th Force Support Squadron, is at the end of the road in his application for citizenship. Ever since he was child Airman Javier has dreamed of having a career in the military. It is also very important to him to have the ability to vote in all local, state, and federal elections. For him, having a say in who is running the country and making policies is vitally important.

Federal law limits non-U.S. citizens to a single enlistment, so after Airman Javier entered the Air Force, he began his quest to become a citizen and follow his dream. So far that process has been fast and easy for him, as he began his application by talking to Tina Brant in the Military Personnel Section Customer Service Element in December 2009. She provided him all of the paperwork he needed and acted as a liaison to facilitate his application.

Airman Javier's parents went through the process years ago, and he recalls that it took them more than a year to finish the citizenship process. At the moment Javier is on track to have his citizenship completed in about six months and what's more, he did not have to pay $595 in fees or wait up to two years for completion, unlike his civilian counterparts. He is currently awaiting a test date at which time he will be tested on his basic English skills and U.S. history. Upon successful completion Airman Javier will be a citizen of the U.S.

Airman Javier is just one of many hard working and honorable "non-U.S. citizen" Airmen serving this great country. We should all remember what many of us are born with, others struggle and persevere to achieve. I salute and thank all of the non-U.S. citizens serving in our armed forces. Thank you for serving this great country.