Soldiers, with the 4th Battalion, 39th Infantry Regiment, raise their hands while taking the Oath of Allegiance after their Family Day activities, Aug. 26. (Photo by Nathan Clinebelle)

Jackson makes Soldiers, American citizens

By Maj. Peter Ahching, 4th Battalion, 39th Infantry Regiment

Forty-three Soldiers saw their dreams come true as they became naturalized American citizens during the naturalization ceremony by the 4th Battalion, 39th Infantry Regiment following their Family Day ceremony on Fort Jackson, Aug. 29.

Being an American citizen is a distant dream for some non-Americans living in America. However, new Soldiers at Fort Jackson took advantage of the Expedited Naturalization Executive Order signed into law by former President George W. Bush on July 3, 2002, to become American citizens while serving in the Army.

Naturalization is the term for the legal process by which a non-American may apply for and obtain American citizenship. The Expedited Naturalization Executive Order allows an expedited process for Soldiers to become naturalized.

“We are very proud of our trainees who are becoming American citizens today,” said Lt. Col Jonathan Baker, battalion commander. New trainees can go online and create an account and fill out their Form N-400 or they can start the paper copy of the Form N-400 and complete it during Basic Combat Training. The application process uses the 20-page Form N-400 and can be expedited during BCT.

A few days after new trainees arrive to Fort Jackson, all legal immigrants receive a naturalization brief from their battalion legal team. Trainees can fill out the Form N-400 and their chain of command sends it to their battalion legal team for processing.

The battalion legal assistants will ensure the packets are complete. The packets are then mailed off to the U.S. Citizenship & Immigrations Services mailbox with a spreadsheet containing the applicants’ information, so the field office can begin working on them.

Trainees then work with their battalion legal team and USCIS to complete the process. Although it is expedited, applicants still must be fingerprinted, interviewed, and pass the naturalization exam. The exam covers a series of topics such as principles of American democracy, history, geography, and holidays.

If the applicant completes everything, they will do an interview and be given an exam by a USCIS Officer. Once they complete the interview and pass the test, they will receive a date when they can take the Oath of Allegiance to the U.S. and become a citizen at the end of Basic Combat Training.

For those that are unable to complete the process in 10 weeks at BCT, they can continue the process when they get to their Advanced Individual Training. They can go online and update their address change, so the proper USCIS field office can continue with their application. They can also call the Military liaison at USCIS.