News | Aug. 14, 2014

USS Peleliu is All-American

By Vicki Dronet Alba, Region Legal Service Office Southwest

USS Peleliu (LHA-5) has recently accomplished the unprecedented achievement of an “All-American” crew.  100 percent of her 1,072 Sailors are now U.S. citizens. The ship’s command citizenship representative (CCR), Lt. Connor D. Flynn, armed with passion, training, and “know-how” to assist service members with becoming U.S. citizens, screened every Peleliu Sailor listed on the Fleet Training Management and Planning System (FLTMPS) Report as “non-citizen.” 

With pacesetting leadership, he then worked with Peleliu chain-of-command, and personnel and support staff to accomplish a monumentally ambitious goal of an “All-American” crew. Flynn screened 60 shipmates one-by-one to find out their actual U.S. citizenship status.  He determined eight sailors required naturalization and the remaining 52 required proof they had acquired U.S. citizenship at birth abroad or derived U.S. citizenship from a naturalized parent.  Services for all Sailors were completed quickly and successfully before the amphibious assault ship left San Diego for RIMPAC 2014 and deployment to the Western Pacific on June 17, 2014.  Engineman 1st Class Patrick Vassell was the last Sailor to naturalize, becoming a U.S. citizen June 3, 2014.

Remarkably, Flynn not only assisted eight Sailors with naturalization before deploying, he went above-and-beyond by obtaining documents required for all the Sailors’ Naval records to accurately reflect U.S. citizenship status. “It was an ambitious task to do what we did with a crew this size, but we got it done in nine months from September through June,” said Flynn. “We had a clear goal from the beginning, and pursued it vigorously and relentlessly until it was achieved.  I think this accomplishment speaks volumes about our dedication to our people.” Peleliu Sailors hail from many different regions and we are blessed to have such a diverse group. 

The 60 Sailors serviced since September 2013 are from six continents, 26 countries, and one unincorporated U.S. territory.  Each Sailor has a unique, intriguing story.  As children, some escaped war, poverty, genocide, and/or political repression when they came to America.  Below is a breakdown of the native continents and countries of the 60 Sailors that were serviced since September 2013. The 60 Sailors that were serviced since September 2013 originated from the following 27 countries: Philippines,  China, South Korea, Thailand, Mexico, Jamaica, Cuba, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Nicaragua, Saint Lucia, Trinidad And Tobago, Benin, Liberia, Democratic Republic Of Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, Colombia, Brazil, Guyana, Peru, American Samoa, Fiji, and Czech Republic. There are several benefits associated with becoming a U.S. citizen.  First, they are endowed with rights that many Americans take for granted, such as voting, jury duty, running for public office, commissioning as an Officer within the Armed Forces, obtaining a security clearance, and more.  Secondly, the families of these Sailors are positively affected in that their children (those under the age of 18) obtain derivative-citizenship and spouses and other immediate family members may be petitioned to immigrate to the United States.

 “Having come from an immigrant family myself and gone through this process with my wife, I understand how difficult and costly it can be,” said Flynn. “It is for this reason that I have felt it my duty to share the skills I acquired through my personal experience with those who serve our country.” In order to further morale and welfare, Flynn also assisted Sailors with petitioning for immediate family members to immigrate to the United States.  While abroad Peleliu, Flynn assisted eight Sailors apply for their immediate family members to immigrate and acquire permanent resident status.  All cases are currently pending.

“Sailors should not have to be burdened with separation from their families living abroad due to a lack of knowledge and expertise in the immigration process,” said Flynn.  “My philosophy is that if I use my knowledge to quickly guide these Sailors through the naturalization and family immigration processes, then I can save them time away from work researching the answers and money that would have been spent on expensive legal services.  With the Sailors’ time and expenses saved, I can quickly put them back to work on board Peleliu.  Most importantly, these Sailors have an ease of mind and a higher sense of loyalty to take care of the ship that took care of them.  I believe it is programs like this that make our Navy stronger.”

USS Peleliu’s model shipboard naturalization program set superior standards for ships and commands worldwide.  Naturalization of service members has been a priority for the Navy for over a decade.  CCRs throughout the Navy assist this effort to naturalize service members expeditiously, contributing to mission readiness, diversity in ranks, and improving the lives of service members and their families.

“It has given me great pleasure knowing that our program has positively impacted the lives of these brave men and women and their families. "It is my deepest wish to see more programs like this flourish throughout our fine Navy," said Flynn.

In the Navy Region Southwest area of responsibility, Region Legal Service Office Southwest (RLSO SW) offers support to ships and commands by training CCRs and assisting them with service member naturalization.  Together, thousands of service members have become U.S. citizens since the program’s inception in December 1999.  Still, many Sailors are not U.S. citizens or have not updated their Naval records to accurately reflect their U.S. citizenship status. 

If you need assistance with your ship’s or command’s naturalization program, please contact the Legal Assistance Directorate at (202) 685-7180 or RLSO SW at (619) 556-2788.
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