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Monday, July 22, 2024

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Coastie Graduates, Becomes US Citizen on Same Day

Christopher South
Arsene Katumbayi, a native of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Africa, is congratulated by company commanders upon graduating from U.S. Coast Guard boot camp and becoming a U.S. citizen on the same day. The Coast Guard and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services are expediting the process of citizenship for military members.

By Christopher South

CAPE MAY – The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) Training Center (TRACEN) Cape May experienced a first in the history of the nation’s only USCG enlisted member training facility.

Seaman Arsene Katumbayi, 18, became a U.S. citizen on the occasion of his graduation from USCG boot camp, Sept. 15. Katumbayi, of Irving, Texas, came to the U.S. Sept. 16, 2016, from his native Democratic Republic of the Congo, in Africa. He is the first recruit to take the oath to become a citizen at the conclusion of his basic training.

According to Lt. Cdr. Colin Fogarty, who serves as the TRACEN judge advocate, the Coast Guard worked tirelessly with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Mt. Laurel Field Office to complete the recruit’s application for U.S. citizenship in eight weeks – the length of Coast Guard basic training.

“Normally the process takes six to eight months,” said USCIS Director Keith Dorr.

Fogarty said his office, which includes him and Jaime Yeoman, a legal technician, received authorization to begin the citizenship application process at the beginning of boot camp. Since then, he said, he and Yeoman have invested at least 100 hours in preparation for Katumbayi to take the oath of citizenship.

Over the preceding eight weeks, Katumbayi met with the Staff Judge Advocate, completing all the required forms, screenings and interviews, and satisfactorily passing the citizenship test. Dorr said the process included the evaluation of the applicant’s English language skills, as well.

The process related to Katumbayi’s certification toward citizenship has helped prepare the Staff Judge Advocate (also known as JAG – Judge Advocate General) for the future citizenship applications. Two more USCG recruits will take the oath of citizenship at the regular graduation ceremony Sept. 22.

“We are averaging two not-naturalized recruits per company,” Fogarty said. “We have recruits that come from India, South Korea, Japan, South America, Central America…”

Fogarty said the Coast Guard wants to get the word out that it is open to accepting recruits who have not yet obtained citizenship; and in fact can be a faster pathway to citizenship.

“We are able to expedite applications for military members. We (USCIS) do this across the country, but Cape May is within our (Mt. Laurel) jurisdiction,” Dorr said.

Dorr said the application interviews and language skills assessments were all done remotely, with USCIS representatives only coming down for the graduation. Dorr said there are citizen oaths administered on a daily basis around the country, but they sometimes come out for a special event, such as the Coast Guard graduation. The USCIS held an oath ceremony on the Battleship New Jersey, July 4. Others are held in U.S. national parks, Dorr said.

Fogarty said recruiting has only recently become an issue for the Coast Guard, which used to have a waiting list. In the last few years, he said, recruiting has dropped off for various reasons, including a better job market. Fogarty said the Coast Guard is now ready and waiting to hear from potential recruits up to the age of 41 who are interested in serving the U.S. as its sentinels on the waterways, looking out for the safety of recreational and commercial boaters.

Shown are Capt. Warren Judge, commanding officer, U.S. Coast Guard Training Center Cape May, left, and Seaman Arsene Katumbayi. Photo Credit: Christopher South

Capt. Warren Judge, commanding officer, TRACEN, echoed Fogarty’s remarks about spreading the word about Coast Guard recruiting. Addressing a crowd of graduating recruits, their families, and permanent party staff, he said this was a good opportunity to talk about increasing recruiting efforts. He also remarked that it was another special day in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard, and as always, said he was both humbled and honored to be a part of it.

Katumbayi, who is from the town of Mbuji-Mayi in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, is being assigned as a seaman on the USCG Cutter Alliance in Pensacola, Florida. He hopes to eventually enter training in military enforcement, which typically handles drug interdiction and immigration issues in the Coast Guard.

Along with his graduation certificate, Katumbayi also received his naturalization certificate. A number of Katumbayi’s family members were present to celebrate his achievement.

Contact the author, Christopher South, at csouth@cmcherald.com or 609-886-8600, ext. 128.

Reporter

Christopher South is a reporter for the Cape May County Herald.

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