NATICK, Mass. (Nov. 26, 2013) -- Growing up in Guinea, West Africa, was tough, said Spc. Michel Kamano, a human research volunteer with Headquarters Research Development Detachment.

Through that toughness, he persevered and now he is a naturalized U.S. citizen.

"Guinea is a small country and it's poor, so things weren't easy," he said. "Things weren't easy for me going through school."

Kamano said that before being cleared to graduate from high school, all students in his country are subjected to an exit exam.

"It was very difficult," he said. "Some people dropped because of that … The exam is not easy."

He said his first attempt at the test did not produce the result he wanted, but again, he didn't give up. He said he was motivated by his entire family, including his father, who passed away while Kamano was in the tenth grade.

After completing high school, he went on to college, where he studied engineering and construction. He said people in his country go to college and complete a degree, but still struggle to find employment.

"(The United States) is the (most) powerful country in the world," he said. "People appreciate the freedom in this country, and (there are) a lot of opportunities to get jobs."

Kamano came to the U.S. with a green card qualification in 2010, and after about a year of working at fast food restaurants and as a security guard, he decided he wanted to join the Army.

"I tried to go back to school," he said. "It wasn't easy for me, because I had to pay and go to work."

Instead, Kamano decided to take another route, and he joined the Army. That was no easy road, however.

"It was a long process, because I failed the (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) test because of English," he said. "(When) I came here, I didn't know how to speak a single word of English."

Kamano said he missed passing the ASVAB by four points. Thirty days later, he took the test and failed a second time.

"Since I wanted to do it, I studied for six months," he said. "So I took my time, and I studied hard. I took (English as a Second Language) classes … That's how I passed the test."

Kamano raised his right hand to defend this country in April. He enlisted as a Quartermaster and Chemical Equipment Repairer, and he will be stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C., after he leaves Natick.

Although his Army career has been a short one, he feels he has been able to contribute by participating at the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center as an HRV.

"Since they told us that (this is) something that will work for us, to improve military combat systems, I said 'OK, I'm going to participate since I'm in the Army,'" Kamano said.

Kamano said he has seen fascinating research happen here at Natick.

"The last time I tested (an Advanced Combat Helmet), backpack, and (Interceptor Body Armor). It's very interesting," he said. "Like those we used in basic training, … they (were) heavier and not stable; these are very stable."

Kamano plans to re-enlist and go to Officer Candidate School, where he would like to have a focus in administration, finance or engineering.

"I want to go back to school and get my masters," he said. "My dream is to work for the U.S. Embassy."

On Nov. 20, Kamano, along with almost 900 others, raised his right hand, yet again. This time, he took an Oath of Allegiance and became a naturalized citizen.

The ceremony took place at the Lowell Memorial Auditorium among 2,000 family, friends and associates. Of all who became naturalized citizens, Kamano was the only Soldier.

"The ceremony was more amazing than I expected, and I felt very special about that," he said.
Dressed in his Army Service Uniform, Kamano was singled out to lead the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance.

"It was a surprise to me to be chosen to lead the pledge to the flag for the ceremony," he said. "I didn't know how to say the pledge to the flag, so I was worried and nervous about it when I got the news."

Kamano said he was thankful for his fellow Soldiers and leaders who helped him practice the pledge, which allowed him to be more comfortable.

"I realized that people can have family members, even not (of) the same blood," he said. "People that were around (me) gave me lots of feelings that I can't forget."

Now that he is a naturalized citizen, he plans to apply for his family in Guinea to join him.

"I called my brother the day before the ceremony to let everyone (in) my family know that I was becoming a citizen of the United States of America," he said. "(My brother) was very excited and quickly drove back home to announce the news to the family.

"Later, I got a call back telling me the excitement which made them dance. That gave me much more confidence."