Soldier's Diary: Earning U.S. Citizenship in Iraq

Editor's note: U.S. Army Capt. Dan Sukman is serving a one-year deployment to Iraq. For previous entries and his bio, see the Soldier's Diary archives.

May 17, 2006

The most important asset of the United States Army is the soldier. Anything you can do to make a soldier's life better and allow him or her to do their job better it is worth the time and effort. I have written some columns lately that discussed some of the bad news we have had, so I want to take a moment and talk about one of the better events.

On Tuesday, I had the honor of attending a swearing-in ceremony for one of my soldiers. On that day, 83 soldiers and Marines were sworn in as U.S. citizens while serving in Baghdad.

The ceremony took place over on the other side of the base at the Camp Victory Chapel. All of our new citizens were seated in the pews, and for the rest of the crowd, it was standing-room only.

Like other ceremonies I have discussed, this one was simple and professional: A rendition of the national anthem, a recital of the Pledge of Allegiance, the Oath and a taped message from the commander in chief.

The events concluded with a rendition and video of Lee Greenwood's "Proud to Be an American." As anyone who has been in the military since 1992 knows, it is SOP [standard operating procedure] to play that song at any military function.

Specialist Zaklina Cetic has been working in my company for approximately one year now. She is a native of Yugoslavia but has been serving in the United States Army for well over three years. This is her second deployment to Iraq, having served here in OIF I [Operation Iraqi Freedom I] with the First Armored Division based out of Germany. She is the first person I know who has taken the oath, and along with all the other soldiers, Marines and service members who have become citizens, I don't think there is anyone who can say they have done more to earn their citizenship.

I have never seen the questionnaire that is required to apply for citizenship, but I think for some people it should be two questions long:

1. Have you ever served in the U.S. Military in a combat zone?

2. When is a good time for you to take the oath?

The other good news … after an entire month of conducting inventories, I finally took command of a company last night. I cannot say enough about the soldiers in the company I am commanding, but I will try over the course of this diary. The change of command ceremony happened on Tuesday night and was the official passing of the unit's colors from the former commander to the new commander.

An interesting and fitting part of the ceremony was, after I receive the colors, I passed them to the company first sergeant. I have mentioned before how important it is for me as an officer to rely on my NCOs [non-commissioned officers] and soldiers. As a staff officer, I relied on SFC [Sgt. First Class] Massey. As a commander, I will rely on my first sergeant.

First Sgt. Robert Driben is a career soldier. He has been in the military for more than 16 years, and if you ask him, he will tell you there is no other job on earth he would want. He loves leading soldiers, taking care of soldiers and being a soldier. It is not what he does, it is who he is.

I am tracking that we will make a great team. He is from Boston, but despite that, I am sure we will work well together. If we ever do have a serious disagreement, I imagine I will just have to end the argument by reciting in detail the final inning of Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. It's sad, but I can still do it 20 years later, from Gary Carter's single, to Mookie's ground-ball up the first base line.

A consistent criticism of this journal is that it comes off as pro-military. I agree 100 percent. Despite all the dangers we face over here, you can always find good news to talk about.

E-mail Captain Dan at Click here to read his bio.