CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE SPEICHER, Iraq- While on his deployment to northern Iraq, a Calif. National Guard Soldier hopes to gain his naturalized citizenship.

By going through the process for deployed, non-citizen Soldiers, Spc. Edgar Fuentes, a native of San Jose, Calif., and driver for the California Army National Guard's 1st Battalion, 185th Armor Regiment said he wants to become an American citizen and feels fortunate to have his fellow Soldiers, who have become his close friends, help him during the process.

During Fuentes' senior year of high school, an Army recruiter approached him about joining the military. Fuentes said it took him only 20 minutes to decide that he wanted to be a Soldier.

He said becoming a Soldier felt like a natural decision. Wearing the uniform is something he's been passionate about from the start and, that he didn't join to become a citizen- that was just an extra bonus to a job he loved.

Fuentes said when he decided to begin the naturalization process, his fellow Soldiers were more than willing to do all they could to help.

"I swear, sometimes it seems like they want it for me more than even I do," Fuentes said.

Sgt. David Preston, a vehicle commander for the 1st Bn., 185th Armor Regt., who has been helping Fuentes through the process, said that Fuentes deserves to be a citizen; he is a hard worker and is giving his all for America, he said.

In between their convoy security missions, Preston has been working with Fuentes to complete his required applications for naturalization.

Soldiers applying for naturalization have to fill out a number of forms including an authorization for release of information, an overseas processing form (if applicable), authorization of fingerprints, a memorandum of Honorable Service Verification signed by the Soldier's commander, two passport pictures, an application of naturalization, biographic information and request for certification of military service.

"Preston was there during the whole process," Fuentes said. "He collected all the right paperwork for me, sat down with me to help complete it and is helping me submit it. He's been so supportive this whole time," Fuentes said.

Fuentes said with the support from his Soldiers and having lived in the states since he was five, he already feels like a citizen.

Once he has the certificate stating his citizenship, he will not only feel like a citizen, but will finally be one, Fuentes said.

Sgt. Desmond Mcintyre, a native of Salinas, Calif., a gunner for the 1st Bn., 185th Armor Regt., said he is very excited for Fuentes.

"I don't even know what you could say about this guy; he's a character," Mcintyre said. "He's really a good Soldier... he deserves it. He's served his time in the military and he has earned it."

Story by Spc. Kelly Anne Beck