71 Marines and Soldiers Become U.S. Citizens During USCIS Naturalization Ceremony in Afghanistan
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan. The U.S. armed forces Combined Joint Task Force-82 hosted the 13th naturalization ceremony held in Afghanistan on June 3, 2010. During the ceremony 71 soldiers and Marines from 36 different countries became citizens of the United States.
Joanna Ruppel, Chief of International Operations for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), led the naturalization ceremony and administered the Oath of Allegiance. Guests of honor included Karl W. Eikenberry, U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan and U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, commander of Combined Joint Task Force-82. Also attending the ceremony were more than 100 service members who gave a standing ovation to the new U.S. citizens.
"The Oath of Allegiance asks you to 'bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law,'" said Ruppel. "These words hold special significance because you already have met those requirements even before you became U.S. citizens."
During his remarks Ambassador Eikenberry congratulated the service men and women saying, "I cannot think of anyone who more deserves to become a citizen of the United States of America than somebody who has served in the United States armed forces."
Officials from USCIS's Bangkok District office joined Ruppel in Afghanistan to interview each citizenship candidate and administer the naturalization test for three days leading up to the ceremony. After the ceremony, staff from the U.S. Embassy in Kabul helped the new citizens complete their applications for their first U.S. passport.
Since October 2004, when USCIS naturalized 17 service members during a ceremony at Bagram Airfield, 701 members of the military have become U.S. citizens while serving in Afghanistan. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2004 allows for members of the military to naturalize while serving abroad. Before October 1, 2004, military service members could only naturalize while physically within the United States.
Information about immigration services and benefits for members of the U.S. armed forces and their families is available online at http://www.uscis.gov/military.