SUBIC BAY, Republic of the Philippines – Ten foreign nationals took an oath of allegiance to the United States during a naturalization ceremony aboard the forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Essex to officially become American citizens.
All ten, from countries ranging from England to India, are active-duty Sailors assigned to Essex and the forward-deployed amphibious dock landing ship USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49).
"These Sailors prove their dedication and loyalty to our country everyday while serving our Navy aboard these ships," said Capt. Troy Hart, Essex commanding officer. "They have earned the right to call themselves Americans and I am proud to be part of this ceremony inducting them as U.S. citizens."
Because of their service in the U.S. armed forces, these Sailors were able to apply for naturalization under unique guidelines. Outlined in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), non-U.S. citizens serving in the U.S. armed forces are authorized to become naturalized under special provisions. One of those provisions includes serving one year of honorable service. Essex’s legal services office helped provide Sailors with the resources they needed to help them through the process.
“I feel it’s important to help these Sailors on their path toward citizenship,” said Lt. Cmdr. Joel Feldmeier, the ceremony coordinator. “These men and women have already made the commitment to serve their country, which I think proves their desire to become U.S. citizens.”
The Sailors used the Essex legal department to assist them with the immigration and naturalization application.
"It was a little challenging being underway on a ship at the time I was filling out my application," said Seaman Mohanie Samy, who works in Essex's deck department.
According to Samy, the wait was worth it because now that she is a U.S. citizen, she has more opportunities to advance her Navy career. Samy was born in India and arrived in the U.S. as a child with her family.
Each year the U.S. accepts immigrants from countries all over the world. The three main countries of immigration are currently Mexico, India, and the Philippines. In 2008, a record 1,046,539 people were naturalized as U.S. citizens.
Essex, commanded by Capt. Troy Hart, is part of the forward-deployed Essex Amphibious Ready Group and is on patrol in the Western Pacific.