Des Moines, Iowa --
Ever since he was a little kid, David Hernandez knew he wanted to be a part of the United States Air Force (USAF). Becoming a citizen opens up new opportunities for immigrants; and after a long journey, that included: graduating high school, marrying his wife, and the birth of his son, now Airman David Hernandez, is one of the 132d Wing Logistics Readiness Squadron’s (LRS) newest members.
There were many reasons Hernandez wanted to become a member of the USAF, such as the sense of respect that comes with wearing a military uniform, earning his citizenship and setting a good life up for his son.
“One of the reasons I joined was because I wanted to earn my citizenship, I didn’t want it to be given to me,” said Hernandez. “I also want to set an example for my son and maybe someday he can follow in my footsteps.”
Hernandez said even though the process has been long and hard, being a member of the Iowa Air National Guard (IANG) has made things easier. Master Sgt. Paul Havran, said the process involves starting the citizenship paperwork before the member leaves for basic military training (BMT) and after graduation the member is able to fall into their jobs easier because the process is expedited.
Hernandez said the mentorship from senior leaders, such as Havran and Master Sgt. Brenda Safranski, has been important to his success and advancement here at the 132d Wing. Hernandez also said one of the biggest advantages this process has provided him, is the application fees have been waived. In total he saved almost $3000; however Havran said members who naturalize through military service can save almost $10,000 in fees.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) policy is that any immigrant who meets the eligibility requirements can naturalize under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) section 328 and 329 through military service. Immigrants who naturalize under this policy will experience shorter residency requirements, no state-of-residence requirements, and waived application fees. From October 1, 2001 through fiscal year 2018, the USCIS has naturalized nearly 130,000 citizens.
Havran said the reason it’s so important for members to join the unit through naturalization is the diversity of thought and culture.
“The diversity leads to a well-groomed team atmosphere, which produces a successful mission,” said Havran.
Hernandez said he hopes the future holds opportunities such as a full time position with the 132d Wing, becoming a police officer in the metro area, and college.
“Another reason I wanted to become a citizen was because I would like to become a police officer,” said Hernandez. “To serve my community has always been a goal of mine.”
Havran said Hernandez has always hit the ground running, whether it be his time in student flight, working in the LRS warehouse, or his volunteer work with local veteran stand downs.
Hernandez is incredibly thankful to everyone in his squadron and 132d Wing for their continued support, especially for their appearances to his citizenship ceremony.
“I recommend that every Airman on this base attend a citizenship oath ceremony, it validates what we’re doing in uniform to protect the America way of life and democracy,” said Havran.