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NEWS | July 20, 2023

'Greener pastures:' USCIS naturalizes 37 troops, family members during Bliss ceremony

By David Poe Fort Bliss Public Affairs Office

When newly naturalized American citizen Spc. Whatmore Zuze was a boy growing up in Zimbabwe; he looked forward to "being the best he could be" and looking out for his little brother.

Last week, big brother was beaming as he watched his little brother, Pvt. Created Chihava, an Army Reserve Soldier with El Paso's 900th Quartermaster Company, affirm his Oath of Allegiance along with 36 others during a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services general naturalization ceremony at Fort Bliss, Texas, July 13, 2023.

Hosted by USCIS El Paso Field Office Director Richard Welch and staff members, new Americans hailing from 21 nations ranging from Togo to the United Kingdom took part in the event. U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act statute 328 (INA 328) that says lawful permanent residents who've served honorably in the U.S. armed forces for at least one year at any time may be eligible to apply for naturalization.

Last year, USCIS naturalized 10,640 servicemembers through INA 328. Also, as a part of the statute, spouses of servicemembers receive expedited service, and veterans who aren't citizens can receive special dispensations to come to the United States for certain entitlements earned as a U.S. servicemember.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Anne Berton, a United States Military Academy graduate, and a former Army captain, the presiding official, said it gave her "great pleasure not to have to decide a civil controversy or have to send someone to the penitentiary, but instead to have the opportunity to preside over this ceremony and this happy occasion for all of you."

Zuze and Chihava serve together in the 900th QM Co., a petroleum operations unit.

Command Sgt. Maj. Gerardo Gonzalez, the Bliss garrison command sergeant major, was the guest speaker for the ceremony and explained during his comments why a diverse Army is a winning Army.

"The Army brings us together, and we are special, and we are better because we are so culturally diverse," he said. "Everyone didn't grow up being a Soldier, or a medic, or a helicopter mechanic, a tank crewman. It's our job to find what your unique talent is. Bring out what makes you unique and show it wherever you are in the Army.

"Everything is possible -- all you have to do is put in the work," said Gonzalez. "Put in the work, and you can accomplish anything you put your mind to. So that is the American promise. You understand what it's like not to have the freedoms we are afforded here in the United States. And some of us take for granted. You get it. You get why America is so special. You had a choice, and you chose us."

For Zuze, as he watched his brother cross the stage and become a fellow American, America had chosen him and his little brother Chaiva too. The big brother said while they missed their family back in Zimbabwe, he was hopeful for the days ahead as they build their new lives in America – earned through military service.

"I'm looking forward to being the best that I can," Zuze said as he walked out of the auditorium with his brother grasping two miniature American flags tightly. "Everyone out there will see us and be inspired."

For more information on INA 328, visit