Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan --
Two Marines with Marine Wing Support Squadron 273 reached a turning point in their lives when they swore in and became American citizens prior to deploying to Afghanistan.
Staff Sgt. Jason Constable, a watch officer and combat engineer, and Sgt. Jose Guadarramapedraza, an administration specialist, are now citizens of the United States.
“I’ve always felt like I was an American,” said Constable, a native of New Zealand.
Constable said he came to the United States in 1985 and completed his sophomore year in high school after having stayed in the country four years. He returned in 1991 and became a security guard at a local hospital in Phoenix, before joining the Marine Corps in 1993.
“My father wanted me to join the French Foreign Legion,” he said.
Instead, Constable sought the opinion of his friends and asked them what the hardest option would be in the U.S. military. His friends told him it was the Marine Corps.
Constable enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1993 and completed his enlistment four years later.
“I lived a pretty uneventful seven years after that,” he said. “After I got out, it just wasn’t the same.”
Constable said he missed the camaraderie, his sense of belonging and purpose in life. After the attacks on Sept. 11, Constable felt resurgence in patriotism and reenlisted in the Corps in 2004. In 2005, he deployed to Iraq where he received a Purple Heart after being injured when his vehicle hit an improvised explosive device.
Since then, he has continued his service in the Corps where he is now a watch officer for the squadron. Constable said he not only wanted to get his citizenship, but also needed it to perform his duties.
“I started needing clearances that I couldn’t get because I wasn’t a citizen,” he said.
Constable’s journey to become a citizen began late last year and finished when he was sworn in, hours before he deployed to Afghanistan.
Halfway around the world, Guadarramapedraza began a different journey of his own to become a citizen.
Migrating to Idaho from central Mexico with his family of 11, Guadarramapedraza grew up in the town of Mountain Home until he enlisted in the Corps in 2004. Guadarramapedraza said he had permanent residency before he joined, however, not being a citizen began to hamper his ability to carry out day-to-day activities at work.
“I can do my job easier and not have headaches from having to renew my green card and not be able to do certain tasks with my job,” he said. “It’s a huge relief.”
Guadarramapedraza said gaining his citizenship has opened new avenues for him at work. As an administrative specialist, he ensures squadron personnel are paid their entitlements, receive their awards, and tracks their troop movements.
The new clearances granted to him by becoming a citizen allow him to gain access to basic administrative and non-administrative components on secure networks while being deployed.
“I felt proud,” he said. “It was the right thing to do for my family and the Marine Corps. In order to do my job and be proficient and support my Marines, I needed my citizenship,” he said.
With the process now over, Guadarramapedraza said he is proud to be an American and can now properly carry out his duties without problems.
Constable and Guadarramapedraza are both currently supporting operations with the squadron in Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan.