Air Commandos welcome newest citizens

USAF photo: Greg Allen From left, Bernadett Wheeldon, Johanna Eighinger, Airman 1st Class Joel Sipin, 27th Special Operations Contracting Squadron, and Airman Nimol Mao, 27th Special Operations Logistics Readiness Squadron, prepare to take the citizenship oath during naturalization ceremonies. The airmen and family members were sworn in by Immigration Service Officer Peter Rechkemmer from Albuquerque on July 10 at The Landing Zone.

By Greg Allen: 27th SOW Public Affairs

The 27th Special Operations Wing welcomed its newest U.S. citizens July 8 at The Landing Zone in a naturalization ceremony that included a video message from President Barack Obama, remarks by Col. Stephen Clark, 27th Special Operations Wing commander, and presentation of citizenship certificates.

Airman 1st Class Joel Sipin, Airman Nimol Mao, and family members Johanna Eighinger and Bernadett Wheeldon raised their right hands and took an oath of allegiance to their new home, completing a process that is considerably shortened for those serving in the military and their family members.

Airman Sipin is assigned to the 27th Special Operations Contracting Squadron, and Airman Mao is assigned to the 27th Special Operations Logistics Readiness Squadron. Johanna Eighinger is the wife of Staff Sgt. Michael Eighinger, 27th Special Operations Group. Bernadett Wheeldon is the wife of wife of Maj. Jack Wheeldon, 27th Special Operations Civil Engineer Squadron.

Immigration Service Officer Peter Rechkemmer, from the Albuquerque Field Office, interviewed the four candidates before the ceremony, ascertaining their good moral character, ability to read and write English and knowledge of U.S. history and its Constitution. Rechkemmer then administered the Oath of Allegiance to the candidates.

The normal road to citizenship includes five years of residency in the United States before the application process begins, but for those who enlist to serve in the military, there is no waiting period. For military family members the time is reduced to three years. And while non-citizens can enlist in the military, they must become citizens to remain in the Air Force beyond their first enlistment.

“I just never got around to becoming a citizen, said Airman Sipin, who was born in Quezon City, Philippines, but has lived in the United States since 1994. “The entire process only took a couple of months for me.”

In welcoming the airmen and family members as citizens, Col. Stephen Clark told them that they all had already done something that 99 percent of Americans don’t do, and that is to serve and directly support the United States of America.