Natick Soldier Takes Oath of Allegiance
August 3, 2010
NATICK, Mass. - PV2 Oshane Ebanks of the Natick Soldier Systems Center (NSSC) did something last week that most of us take for granted - he became a citizen of the United States. For many of us, citizenship is a right given at birth, but for Ebanks, who immigrated from St. Elizabeth, Jamaica in 1996, it was something that was hard fought and earned.
Ebanks, who's served in the U.S. Army for 11 months to date, credits his success with the excellent chain of command present here at Natick.
In order to become a naturalized citizen in this country, there are numerous requirements that have to be met.
Normally, a non-citizen must have five years of legal permanent residency in the U.S. to even apply (non-citizens married to a U.S. citizen can apply after three years of residency). However, Ebanks was able to take advantage of a special provision granted for members of the Armed Forces. Executive Order Number 13269, signed into effect by former President George W. Bush on July 3, 2002, provides expedited naturalization for aliens and non-citizen nationals serving in an active-duty status in the Armed Forces during a period of war.
Upon filing a formal application, Ebanks had to study over 100 civics questions in preparation for his naturalization test. In order to receive a passing score, the applicant must correctly answer six out of the ten civics questions asked during a scheduled interview and then demonstrate his or her English proficiency by reading and writing a sentence in English.
For Ebanks, the latter part didn't pose an issue since he'd attended high school in the United States and traveled back and forth between Jamaica and New Jersey, where his father resides.
Ebanks first became interested in joining the Army after hearing that it was a good option for someone who was on the fence about college. He came to the conclusion that the Army would give him more opportunities, especially since he wanted to go into criminal justice.
"I knew the Army would prepare me well for that path," said Ebanks. "It [Army service] provides more opportunities as a citizen."
Ultimately, Ebanks would like to settle down in the United States with a family someday and become a state trooper.
His mother had "always taught [him] to help and contribute to everyone around him." It was this lifelong lesson of giving back to one's community that influenced his decision to enlist.
He was motivated by a sense of duty to this country.
"I like that most Americans are patriotic and respect the military," Ebanks declared. "I wanted to be able to give back to a country that has given me so much."
However, one distinction he made clear was that he did not join the military solely to gain citizenship. With a father who was already a citizen, he could have just as easily done it before he enlisted through his father's citizenship status, but chose to go about it a different way - by serving in the military.
The opportunity to pursue his citizenship first presented itself while he was serving as a soldier in the Human Research Volunteer program at NSSC.
"The Headquarters Research & Development Detachment (HRDD) chain of command, noncommissioned officer to commander was excellent," said Ebanks. "They really know how to work with soldiers and it's clear they want to keep you in the Army and set you up for success."
Ebanks wasn't the only HRV Soldier to become a United States citizen in the past few months. PV2 Antje Thomas and PV2 Imalvis Hernandez also became American citizens.
Recruited by Natick representatives for the HRV program while at Advanced Individual Training (AIT), he was impressed by what Capt. Brian Meekins, Commander of the HRDD, had to say about Natick and the type of work that they do on the installation.
"We are proud of the effort these young men and women put into becoming American citizens," said Sgt. 1st Class Aaron Williamson, HRDD 1st Sergeant. "They serve our country as Soldiers and now they are a part of our country. They put in the hard work, we supported them in making it happen."
With permission from the Human Resources Command (HRC), the HRDD recruits regular Army soldiers every three months to participate in research studies conducted at the NSSC. These soldiers are generally between the ages of 18 to 39 and arrive following graduation from AIT and prior to their first permanent duty station.
Ebanks was excited to help out in any way he could.
"I feel like my input in these research studies matter."
In the eyes of Ebanks, he's living the American dream - he's home.
"I plan to stay here [in this country] until I die."