JA naturalizes Airman in record time

  • Published
  • By Chad Watkins
  • 55th Wing Public Affairs

Airman 1st Class Romario Samuels became a U.S. citizen on Thursday, Feb. 15 at Offutt Air Force Base in record time due to collaboration between the 55th Wing Staff Judge Advocate office and the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service.

Over one year ago, JA and the USCIS entered a joint venture to streamline the process for military members seeking citizenship, cutting wait times down from approximately four months to less than 50 percent of that time. With the combined effort of JA and the USCIS, Samuels’ application was processed in a record setting six days, reducing the mission impact any further delay would cause.

“Without his citizenship, Airman Samuels was ineligible for a security clearance, and couldn’t complete his training,” said Master Sgt. Daniel Trissler, 55th Operations Support Squadron first sergeant. “Our manning in the Aircrew Flight Equipment flight is already strained, so we reached out to base legal for assistance.”

Airman Samuels arrived at Offutt in mid-January, fresh out of basic training and technical school, to join the 55th OSS as part of the Aircrew Flight Equipment flight.  Shortly after arriving, he was informed his request for citizenship was denied.  A clerical error during basic training had Samuels incorrectly fill out the wrong citizenship paperwork, which would delay his citizenship application by at least eight months and cost a minimum of $700 to process through the civilian court system.

Captain Daniel Ko, 55th Wing JA chief of military justice, and 1st Lieutenant Vanessa Skillman, 55th Wing JA chief of legal assistance, worked with the USCIS to expedite Samuels’ case.

“His First Sgt. contacted us and explained the situation,” said Capt. Ko. “And while our citizenship program was paused due to manning, we felt this was something we could accomplish.”

Capt. Ko and Lt. Skillman reached out to Samuels immediately, working the citizenship package with him step by step along with Mr. Jeffrey Beil, an officer with USCIS in Nebraska.

“It can be a long and strenuous process,” said Lt. Skillman. “We are fortunate to have connections that allow for us to best help our airmen through this process.”

Needing only to pass the citizenship test before taking his oath of citizenship, Samuels proved that his command’s effort for him was well deserved, scoring a perfect 100 percent on the test.

Lt. Skillman said, “Thanks to all those involved, the mission continues, and we can continue to focus on being the world’s greatest Air Force.”