Story by: Sgt. Mary S. Katzenberger
BAGHDAD – As Americans stateside prepared for Independence Day, two “Speed and Power” Soldiers took the opportunity presented this deployment to become America’s newest citizens July 4 in the 17th naturalization ceremony to be held in Iraq.
Sergeant Mawuli Dogbatse, of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, and Pfc. Andrey Kadatko, of Company D, each of 3rd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, 1st Advise and Assist Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, were two of 156 soldiers from 56 countries to be naturalized inside Al Faw Palace at Camp Victory with Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, and Gen. Ray Odierno, commander of United States Forces-Iraq.
“You are proof that diversity is strength,” said Odierno, addressing the Soldiers seated before him. “Diverse as your backgrounds may be, you will all have one thing in common, you will be American citizens,” he continued.
Before the candidates recited the oath of citizenship, Vice president Biden spoke to the Soldiers about their decision to become full-fledged citizens and their service to the nation.
“That uniform you wear is the nation’s oldest symbol of being an American,” he said. “You all are already Americans, now let’s make it official,” he added.
Kadatko, born and raised in Novosibirsk, Siberia, felt that the vice president and the commanding general provided a very warm welcome to new citizens such as himself.
The chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear specialist immigrated at age 18 to the United States in 2006 with his mother and sister.
“I thought America would be a great opportunity,” he said.
After losing his job and wrecking his car in 2008, Kadatko decided to join the Army to improve his financial situation, secure educational benefits, and to become an American citizen. He chose to work in the chemical field because he feels the United States houses the world’s best chemical defense training facility.
Kadatko said the naturalization process went smoothly, and added that he would not have succeeded without the support of his family and fiancee, Mariana, who have all kept their fingers crossed for him.
Dogbatse, an infantryman, moved to America when he was 13 years old.
Born in Accra, Ghana, Dogbatse immigrated with his family when his father, Kobla, a brigadier general in the Ghanaian army, was transferred to the States to work as a military attaché. His father retired from the military in 2001.
Growing up around the military inspired Dogbatse to join the Army in 2004.
“I’ve always been proud of wearing this flag on my shoulder,” said Dogbatse. “It’s the greatest country in the world. It’s an honor to be a citizen.”
At the close of the ceremony, each Soldier was presented a certificate of citizenship, a coin from the USF-I commanding general and a U.S. flag to officially mark the successful completion of the naturalization process.