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Petty Officer 3rd Class Jorge Duarte-Figueroa from Guadalajara, Mexico, waits with fellow sailors for a citizenship ceremony to commence on the flight deck of the USS Kitty Hawk at sea on Saturday.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Jorge Duarte-Figueroa from Guadalajara, Mexico, waits with fellow sailors for a citizenship ceremony to commence on the flight deck of the USS Kitty Hawk at sea on Saturday. (Jonathan Foutz / U.S. Navy)

Twenty-nine sailors from the USS Kitty Hawk and Carrier Air Wing 5 made history while becoming Americans on Saturday, by being the first sailors to be naturalized at sea on a Navy warship, according to a Navy news release.

The ceremony was scheduled to take place at a later date in port. But since immigration officials were available to test the sailors under way, the sailors were granted citizenship shortly before the ship’s return to Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan, after a 90-day deployment.

Kitty Hawk commander Capt. Ed McNamee presided over the ceremony along with Robert Looney, from the Bangkok district of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

“Thousands of immigrants serving in the United States Armed Forces are making extraordinary sacrifices for their adopted nation,” Looney stated in a written release. “These brave men and women have pledged their lives to defend liberties they have yet to secure for themselves. There is no more fitting way for a grateful nation to show its appreciation for their service than through granting qualified military servicemembers U.S. citizenship as quickly as possible.”

The 29 are assigned to the ship and Naval Air Facility Atsugi-based squadrons Strike Fighter Squadron 102, VFA-192 and Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron 14.

More than 500 sailors on the ship come from 50 foreign countries, the release said.

Immigration laws have been modified in the past several years to make it easier and quicker for many active-duty servicemembers to gain citizenship, according to the USCIS.

“It’s a great feeling to be done with the whole process and that I’m now a citizen,” stated Seaman Chanthorn Peou, from the ship’s educational service office, who was born in Cambodia. “I’m very excited.”

Taking the oath as Americans

Here are the names and prior nationalities of the sailors who became American citizens Saturday while at sea aboard the USS Kitty Hawk:

Bismark Amedzro, GhanaRyann Aquino, PhilippinesWendy Aquino, Dominican RepublicFrancisco Avalos, El SalvadorHaeven Bautista, PhilippinesCherng Chu, TaiwanRoy Cutkelvin, BelizeEnrico Dagsindal, PhilippinesJorge Duarte-Figueroa, MexicoRaymond Farpale, PhilippinesIgnace Fortunat, HaitiPedro Gonzalez, El SalvadorJuan Hernandez, ColombiaJohn Hope, GhanaJacky Jouthe, HaitiChris Ligsay, PhilippinesKethsanga Lounbandit, LaosFrederick Manucat, PhilippinesJairo Martinez-Vasquez, El SalvadorGarfield McKenzie, JamaicaMarionne Mendoza, PhilippinesReynaldo Ogoy Jr., PhilippinesCarlos Orona Rincon, MexicoChanthron Peou, CambodiaHarol Pineda-Chavez, MexicoMario Richards, JamaicaCarlos Solera Castillo, Costa RicaMichel Tolentino, PhilippinesByung Yoo, South Korea


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