Tinker Airman’s journey to citizenship through service

  • Published
  • By Gina Anderson
  • 72nd Air Base Wing

Approximately one percent of United States citizens choose to join the military. For Senior Airman Chichester Agustin choosing to serve in the Air Force helped make her dream of U.S. citizenship a reality.

Agustin was born and raised in the Pampanga province of the Philippines. Around the age of three her mother decided to leave the Philippines to pursue work visa in the U.S. to provide a better life for the family and left Agustin and her siblings in the care of her father. By the time she was around six years old, Agustin’s family dynamic shifted again when her father left to go work in the U.S., which put her and her siblings in the care of her Grandmother and Aunt.

“I had to growing up quickly without my parents beside me, I prayed every day for my family to be together again,” said Agustin.

In 2012, after high school graduation, Agustin and her siblings moved to Los Angeles, finally reuniting with their parents after 13 years apart. Almost immediately, her mother enrolled her in a nursing program at a local trade school as she was a big believer in encouraging her daughter to purse a reliable career path.

“It was hard for me, I wanted to go to college, but my heart was not for nursing,” said Agustin. “I was also trying to adjust to new environment and learn to become proficient in English.”

Not wanting to disappoint her family, Agustin did complete the nursing program before heading off to stay and work fulltime with relatives on the east coast.

Still, unsure of what she wanted to do with her life, she spent a year working for a semiconductor manufacturer in New Jersey, soldering airplane engine components as part of a military contract.

Upon returning to Los Angeles, Agustin again enrolled in college and worked as a private nursing assistant for a retired instructor at the Navy Fighter Weapons School, better known as Top Gun.

“It was working for Mr. Stuart Atkins, one of the first ever Top Gun instructors, for three years and he shared his military experiences with me, which inspired me to join the Air Force,” said Agustin. “He told me that the military could offer me a lot of different opportunities and take me places I never imagined I could go.”

Agustin joined the Air Force in 2019, with the help of a local recruiter, who advised her as a green cardholder she’d only be eligible for certain jobs. Looking at the possible career fields she was quickly drawn to finance.

For nearly 3 years, Agustin has been a Military Pay Technician with the 72nd Comptroller Squadron and continues to work toward her bachelor’s degree.

On May 17 of this year Agustin took the Oath of Allegiance and became a naturalized U.S. citizen in front of her 72nd Comptroller Squadron teammates and partner. The process leading up to taking the oath included submitting an application, background checks, fingerprinting and an extensive interview.

According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, typically to become a U.S. citizen, a person must live in the country for a minimum of five years before becoming eligible to begin the process, but Airmen are eligible to apply for citizenship after one year of service.

“After, coming to the United States 10 years ago to join my parents, it feels wonderful to now be called a U.S. citizen,” said Agustin. “Citizenship opens up opportunities for me and I have the right to choose what I want to be regardless of where I came from.”