Front & Center: First U.S. citizens under new basic military training streamlined naturalization process recognized

The airmen are part of the more than 500 Airmen and Guardians graduating from the 326th Training Squadron

SAN ANTONIO – For the first time, at least since 2017, the United States Air Force is re-implementing a program that will allow trainees at JBSA-Lackland to become U.S. Citizens.

Policy changes back in 2017 changed processing timelines that affected a trainee’s opportunity to naturalize before graduation.

Thanks to a partnership between the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and the 37th Training Wing at JBSA-Lackland, trainees who are not citizens can now become U.S. Citizens before graduating from basic military training.

The Air Force says this is just one of several initiatives to remove barriers to service amid the current challenging recruiting environment.

Today, more than 500 trainees graduated from basic military training at JBSA-Lackland. Among those 500 were 14 airmen men and women became U.S. Citizens.

“I owe it to the Air Force, and I owe it to all the people in my chain of command who have worked so hard for us to get the citizenship here,” said Ivine Kiburi, Airman, U.S.A.F

Airman Kiburi, originally from Kenya says she didn’t expect to get this opportunity.

“We had our arrival speech by Colonel Jeffrey Pixley, and he told us about the citizenship opportunities. So, I felt like, oh, I should jump on this right away, and it worked out great. Thanks to an amazing team,” said Kiburi.

Twenty-one-year-old Roel Watson was born and raised in Kingston Jamaica. He was raised alongside his brother in a single-parent household.

Watson’s mom says they left behind the crime-ridden streets of Kingston to pursue a life with more opportunity in the U.S. for her children.

“I was crying in the stands, I’m super proud of him, I’m just, I’m excited I don’t have the words to explain the feeling, but yes, I am super proud of him,” said Watson’s mother.

Watson says joining the Air Force is a blessing and becoming a citizen is an opportunity not taken for granted.

“I never thought I would be in any type of military. To be honest, I never thought I’d go to America. I thought I was going to live out the rest of my life in Jamaica, but my mother came up and wrote me up for a better life because of the struggle there; living conditions aren’t the best. So that’s why I’m here,” said Watson.

Col. Layne Trosper, Vice Commander at Air Force Recruiting Service says it’s all about giving people opportunities to serve. He says in doing so gives the Air Force full access to all the talent in the country and adds, sometimes that talent are people who come to this country with a desire to serve.

“So, we just want to make it as easy as possible for them to serve in the Air Force, but also to become U.S. citizens in the process. So, it’s great for everybody,” said Trosper.

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About the Authors:

Jonathan Cotto is a reporter for KSAT’s Good Morning San Antonio. He’s a bilingual award-winning news reporter and he joined KSAT in 2021. Before coming to San Antonio, Cotto was reporting along the U.S.-Mexico border in South Texas. He’s a veteran of the United States Navy.