By Airman 1st Class Saomy Sabournin, Minot Air Force Base Public Affairs
/ Published May 03, 2021
U. S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Jessica Ramsay is a Paralegal for the 5th Bomb Wing’s Judge Advocacy Office at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota.
A1C Ramsay shares her story on becoming a naturalized citizen and the changes she'd like to make to the system.
The United States Armed Forces has had a long history of immigrants serving in the military ever since the Revolutionary War. While not only making the grand commitment of serving the nation, they have also sworn to protect the rights of the citizens of the nation as well – even if they themselves don’t have those rights.
U. S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Jessica Ramsay, who is a Paralegal for the 5th Bomb Wing’s Judge Advocacy Office at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, has found that the current system could better support its people, the Air Force’s most valuable asset, in relation to the naturalization process.
“My family had emigrated from South Africa to Australia for a safer life, and then from Australia to the States due to an economic recession,” said Ramsay. “I am so blessed to live in the United States, the freedom and opportunities are like no other.”
She had never imagined that she could have joined the military, especially as an immigrant. She also didn’t know the proper steps to take towards enlisting as a foreign national.
She credits her interest in the military to a neighbor back home who was a retired Air Force Lieutenant General. While listening to his stories and learning about all of the opportunities that the Air Force had to offer, she knew that this was the path she needed to take for her life.
“I have always been interested in global and international security, language, and adventure,” said Ramsay. “Being a part of this incredible mission has inspired me every day, I’m so thrilled to be here.”
Ramsay’s naturalization process was difficult and quite frustrating for her at times as she found that she didn’t have the proper resources in order to file.
“I struggled mostly with acquiring information and contacting the agencies about my case and the steps I needed to take to file for naturalization as a service member,” said Ramsay. “The biggest challenge I encountered was finding the reliable and current information that reflected the latest changes in naturalization law.”
The holes that she had found in the process made it difficult for service members undergoing the process. After seeing other Airmen go through the same challenges, she had started doing research and discovered that the issue was much larger than she thought it would have been.
She had learned military naturalizations were denied at a higher rate than those for civilians. Service members that fail to do so face severe consequences such as not being able to reenlist, deploy, obtain security clearances, and be prohibited from accessing sensitive information in relation to their career fields. Therefore, the importance of going through this process is crucial.
Ramsay had put in the effort to write out a package outlining broken processes and challenges that she has found in the system. As her way of enacting change, she suggested improvements that she’d like to implement at Minot AFB and the Air Force.
“I presented this package to my leadership, and worked with Maj. Hiatt, a Judge Advocate, to perfect it and so far, it’s spreading like wildfire,” said Ramsay. “I am so grateful that my leaders are working with me to make sure my voice, and the voice of other immigrant Airmen are heard.”