CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait –
A Chinese-born Army Reserve specialist, deployed here with the Lancaster, Pennsylvania-based "Sentinels" of the 1185th Deployment and Distribution Support Battalion, recently submitted his application packet to become an American citizen.
"The reason I joined the military was for the citizenship, the GI Bill and all kinds of benefits," said Spc. Feiyu He, who works as a yard specialist at the unit's posting at Shuaiba Port, Kuwait.
"I joined the Army in 2017, but there was a little problem with my background check, so it took a two-year investigation,” said He.
The specialist finished his citizenship packet with help from the G-1, or the manpower and personnel shop, here at the 1st Theater Sustainment Command's operational command post, he said.
Army Reserve Capt. Stephanie Parker, the deputy chief of the 1st TSC-OCP G-1, said 1st TSC Commanding General Maj. Gen. John P. Sullivan told her section that helping Soldiers become U.S. citizens was a priority.
"Maj. Gen. Sullivan tasked the G-1 with putting together the guide for becoming citizens, directly," Parker said.
The Columbus, Ohio, resident said she personally worked on He's paperwork.
"Spc. He did complete his packet. It was sent to me at the G-1 section for review. I QC'd it and made sure he had all the documents he required," said the captain, who is a federal law enforcement officer in her civilian career.
"When I got the packet, I went through the checklist and ensured that his packet was good to go to be submitted to USCIS," she said. USCIS is the federal agency, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
"It is a lengthy process and it can be expensive," she said. "It can take years, so I can understand if there is some hesitancy."
Due to their service, Soldiers who are eligible for naturalization do not have to pay the application fees and some of the other naturalization requirements may not apply.
Parker encourages Soldiers who wish to become U.S. citizens to take advantages of these benefits. She believes “they deserve U.S. citizenship," she said. "They serve our country. They sacrifice for our country."
He had a difficult transition to U.S.
He said he was born in Guangdong Province, which is in the southern part of China, where the Cantonese dialect is dominant, rather than the country's official Mandarin dialect.
"I moved here when I was 13, seventh grade, middle school," the Philadelphia resident said.
"It definitely was a transition, there was a language barrier, the food, the school--it was a hard transition for me traveling to the United States," he said. "It took me three years to get used to the new place."
The prospective citizen said he did not study English in China.
"I picked up my English skills here," He said. "Just talking to people is the most helpful. Even if you don't have a lot of vocabulary, you still have to talk. There is no faster way to learn a language."
Support from He's command for his citizenship application
Army Reserve Command Sgt. Maj. Rafael A. Saldana, senior enlisted advisor, 1185th DDSB, who signed a Feb. 6 memorandum in support of He's application, said helping the specialist was a profound honor.
"The Soldier has shown perseverance through the many challenges of becoming a United States Soldier; protecting our vital assets and resources from all enemies foreign or domestic, he said.
"Specialist He has committed himself to these values of protecting others from harm and sacrificing himself for the greater good for all," the command sergeant major said. "I'm proud of his accomplishments and his desire to continue to serve a higher entity than himself, his contributions to the 1185th DDSB are noteworthy."
Army Reserve Lt. Col. Dion S. Haverstraw, the 1185th DDSB commanding officer, said he also backed He's application.
"I supported his recommendation for citizenship because of his display of dedication to our unit and our Soldiers, and also the positive qualities he possesses that make him a good candidate for citizenship," Haverstraw said.
"He is a responsible person supportive of American principles of equality and fairness and shows a determined presence to be a productive member of society," Haverstraw said. "His service in the 1185th DDSB as an active member of the U.S. Army Reserve has been honorable and without incident."