SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. —
Team Scott honored 22 Airmen during a Citizenship and Oath of Allegiance ceremony held in Hangar 1 today.
Although these Airmen were already citizens, the pandemic or other obstacle did not allow for them to be recognized properly or participate in the traditional ceremony. This ceremony is one of the last of its kind due to a significant change in the Air Force’s naturalization program, which streamlines the process and naturalizes new Airmen upon graduation from Basic Military Training.
During the ceremony, 20 Airmen and 2 Department of Defense civilians, representing 15 countries, took the U.S. Oath of Allegiance, administered by Air Mobility Command commander, Gen. Mike Minihan. Members also received a plaque on behalf of Scott Air Force Base and a letter of congratulations from the U.S. Senator for Illinois, Tammy Duckworth, who is an immigrant from Thailand and a retired U.S. Army officer.
With a 50-foot U.S. flag as the backdrop and hundreds of family members and friends in attendance, the patriotic ceremony was a great segway into the Fourth of July weekend.
“The unique backgrounds, cultures and experiences of these Americans embody the rich tapestry of the American dream,” said Minihan during his speech. “A dream founded on the principles of freedom, equality and opportunity for all.”
Two of the Airmen being celebrated also shared their stories during the ceremony.
Airman 1st Class Salat Ali, 375th Force Support Squadron force management technician and Somalian refugee, spoke on the difficulties and challenges refugees may face. He also highlighted the unwavering resiliency their experience brings and the benefits of a culturally diverse force.
“Having a new American as your wingman translates to having a resilient, hardworking individual with exceptional survival instincts by your side,” said Ali. “Moreover, it means having a linguistically and culturally diverse ally who can greatly contribute to advancing the Air Force’s mission. Their unique perspectives, values, and ethics serve as valuable assets to the Air Force.”
Airman 1st Class Bianca Groft, 375th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron aerospace medical technician, and Romanian immigrant, reflected on her path to becoming a citizen.
“My journey to becoming an Airman was not an easy one,” said Groft. “It took hard work, dedication and sacrifice. Today, I am proud to say that I am not just a member of the Air Force, but also a proud citizen of this great country. This is an honor that I do not take lightly and is a privilege that I will always cherish and uphold.”
Minihan thanked family and friends, and all who supported the honorees on this journey stating that “nobody walks this path alone.” He said he hoped they felt different after this patriotic ceremony and recommitted to service in this country and “the most lethal Air Force the planet has ever known.” In addition, he shared how everyone should remember that the “freedoms and opportunities we enjoy as Americans also come with great responsibility” and to strive to be worthy of being called Americans.
Congratulations to Team Scott’s newest citizens:
Airman 1st Class Marckensley Constant (Haiti)
1st Lt. Steve Sam (India)
Maj. Julie McFarlane (Jamaica)
Staff Sgt. Jerome Gayle (Jamaica)
Senior Airman Kevaughn Black (Jamaica)
Senior Airman Merrick Ferguson (Jamaica)
Senior Airman Klodian Mekolli (Kosovo)
Tech Sgt. Jose Velazquez (Mexico)
Airman 1st Class Jesus Perez (Mexico)
Airman 1st Class Juan Carlos Padilla-Gomez (Mexico)
Mr. Waqqas Khalid (Pakistan)
Airman 1st Class Ma Ann Macatangay (Philippines)
Airman 1st Class Angemie Paula Bolon (Philippines)
Maj. Stefhanie Jimenez (Philippines)
Airman 1st Class Bianca Groft (Romania)
Senior Airman Daniil Zdanovich (Russia)
Senior Airman Courtney Durm (Russia)
Airman 1st Class Salat Ali (Somalia)
Senior Airman Gunwoo Park (South Korea)
Senior Airman Minseok Lee (South Korea)
Ms. Shurma Soletia Lee (St. Vincent & the Grenadines)
Airman 1st Class Doruk Dalgun (Turkey)