CONTINGENCY OPERATING LOCATION Q-WEST, Iraq — "I am an American Soldier."
It is the first line of the Soldier's Creed and something that many Soldiers take for granted.
According to Spc. Yochanah Best, a paralegal specialist with the 395th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 15th Sustainment Brigade, the words really stuck out in her mind when she first joined the Army.
When she got to basic training and learned the Soldier's Creed, she thought to herself, "I am a Soldier — serving in the American Army, not an American Soldier."
Best was born in Caracas, Venezuela, and eventually moved to New York, but she didn't become a U.S. citizen until 2008.
"Once I became a citizen, I could truly say 'I am an American Soldier,'" Best said.
"Most people who come to the United States want to improve their lives and chase the American dream," Best said.
"We want to be a part of the American dream," Best said.
According to 2nd Lt. Felix Perez, the plans and operations officer for the brigade personnel section, the process for Soldiers is a lot smoother and faster while deployed.
"It's easier and faster [than applying in the States]," Perez, a Lajas, Puerto Rico, native, said.
"The whole process can take up to a year from the time you submit the paperwork," he said. "The average amount of time is six months," said Best.
According to Perez, there is no time in service requirements for deployed active duty Soldiers, however, Army Reserve and National Guard Soldiers must have at least one year of service in order to apply.
"There are a number of benefits to citizenship," said Best, including social security, a U.S. passport and it is even required for some scholarships.
"Many military occupational specialties or advanced schools require a security clearance," Perez said, and without citizenship, a Soldier is unable to get a clearance.
"Besides the tangible benefits, there are other, more personal reasons, including pride," said Best.
"It's a pride thing," she said. "It was a big step to the next part of my life."
Best encouraged every Soldier interested in becoming a U.S. citizen to apply while deployed, especially since the normal processing fees, which are nearly $600, are waived.
For more information on becoming a U.S. citizen while deployed, see the unit personnel or legal office.