NORFOLK (NNS) -- Forty Sailors originating from 20 countries became U.S. citizens during a naturalization ceremony aboard USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77), Sept. 20.
The ceremony, held in the ship's hangar bay, coincides with the annual celebration of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services' (USCIS) Constitution Day and Citizenship Day. It was the first ceremony of its kind for the Navy's newest aircraft carrier.
"It feels good. I've been in the U.S. for about 12-13 years," said Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Equipment) Airman Emil D. Fike, assigned to George H.W. Bush's Air Department, who originated from the Philippines. "It is a proud moment for me."
USCIS Senior Advisor to the Director, Michael Aytes, administered the "Oath of Allegiance" to Sailors representing eight commands, including George H.W. Bush.
"As you take this oath and think back to the journeys that brought you here, know that your also joining a tapestry of millions who stood before and took that same oath and what they have done to make this country great," Aytes said before reading the oath.
According to the ceremony's keynote speaker, Capt. Chip Miller, Commanding Officer of the George H.W. Bush, since July 2002, when the president made it easier for members of the armed services to become naturalized, more than 60,000 service members have become American citizens.
Machinist Mate Fireman Omer Savasci, of USS Bataan (LHD 5), joined the Navy because he wanted to do special operations. Now that he is an American citizen he can take steps to pursue that goal.
According to Personnel Specialist 2nd Class (SW/AW) Herlinda Garza, of George H.W. Bush's Administration Department and one of the ship's naturalization program representatives, in order for a service member to become a citizen, a package needs to be submitted with an official application of citizenship and a passport photo. Once the package is verified by legal, it is sent off to the immigration office in Nevada for review. If the package is accepted, an interview will be set up for the applicant.
After the new citizen is sworn in, they are required to check with personnel to update their service record to reflect the change in citizenship.
"I feel very relieved. I've wanted to do this for quite a while and now I finally got it," said Aviation Support Equipment Technician Airman Apprentice (AW) Polina S. Komarnytska, of George H.W. Bush's Aircraft Intermediate Maintenance Department. "I want to travel and being a U.S. citizen makes doing that a lot easier."
For more information on how to become a U.S. citizen, visit www.uscis.gov.
For more news from USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77), visit www.navy.mil/local/cvn77/.