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Published: Friday, September 14, 2018 @ 2:04 PM
An Airman assigned to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base’s 88th Medical Group was among almost 100 new U.S. citizens sworn in at a naturalization ceremony in Dayton the afternoon of Sept. 6.
Senior Judge Walter Rice of the federal Southern District of Ohio swore in Airman 1st Class Gerald Omweri Nyabaro, who renounced his Kenyan citizenship so he could achieve his dream of becoming a U.S. citizen.
Rice and other officials conducted the ceremony at Wegerzyn Gardens MetroPark in Dayton, where new citizens from 39 different countries were welcomed. Naturalization ceremonies happen on a monthly basis.
Nyabaro has been in the 88 MDG’s Medical Laboratory Apprentice Phase II Program at Wright-Patt since this spring. Its intensive training makes it one of the longest-duration technical schools in the Air Force, said 2nd Lt. Jordan Fuller, chief of 88 MDG’s Core Laboratory and the program’s site coordinator.
Apprentices are trained for nine to 10 months in various aspects of the multi-faceted laboratory, including hematology, coagulation, urinalysis, chemistry, immunohematology, microbiology, parasitology, serology, immunology, virology and mycology, after completing the Phase I program in San Antonio.
“You have to be a jack of all trades to be in a laboratory,” Fuller said, adding that Nyabaro is a cheerful, humble and hard-driven student Airman. “He’s hungry to learn the job. He doesn’t take anything for granted.”
Fuller said he is glad Nyabaro has become a U.S. citizen.
“I think it’s great. He is serving his country even before he became a United States citizen. … This was a way for him to make his own path and forge a future here.” Fuller said.
Originally from Kisii, Kenya, Nyabaro said he is one of nine children and dreamed of making a career in the field of medicine. A government program and loans made it possible for him to earn a bachelor’s degree in library and information science from Kenyatta University in Kenya.
“I come from a humble background. I was lucky to apply to get a green card (through the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program) and come here to the U.S.,” he said.
He lived with a friend for several months once he arrived, cleaning phones and packing automotive engines. His friend reminded him he was educated and suggested he talk to an Air Force recruiter. A month later he joined up and began the paperwork, studying and taking an oral examination to become a full U.S. citizen during basic military training.
Nyabaro was sworn in by Rice in front of his laboratory leadership, including Fuller and Tech. Sgt. Jillian Salazar, MLA Phase II course supervisor, and fellow apprentices.
“It’s a dream come true,” he said. “The best way to say ‘thank you’ to a nation that has welcomed you and has given you a chance to develop yourself as an individual is to serve its people. That’s why I’m here today.
“I’m proud to be a lab tech,” he continued. “Every day I remind myself you have to work for it; I like challenges. I’m so happy. I feel so privileged.”
Salazar said she made attendance at the ceremony mandatory for the 18 students.
“This is what our country is founded on,” she said. “The ceremony was beautiful, and he’s an amazing, positive Airman. I am challenging him to become an officer.”
Salazar said Rice thanked the U.S. military at the end of the ceremony, saying that without them, citizens wouldn’t enjoy the freedoms they have today.