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News from the Oklahoma National Guard

NEWS | April 12, 2023

South African native earns US naturalization before military deployment

By Sgt. 1st Class Mireille Merilice, Oklahoma National Guard

A South African native currently serving in the Oklahoma Army National Guard is preparing to deploy overseas while also studying for his naturalization test.

Pfc. Dewald Ekron, an infantryman assigned to Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 179 Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, is currently preparing to deploy to East Africa and concurrently studying for his naturalization test to become a U.S. citizen.

“I’ve always wanted to be in the military,” Ekron said. “My dad and uncle served in the military.”

Ekron joined the Oklahoma Army National Guard in 2022 after moving to the United States in 2017 and earning permanent residency. Individuals who are serving or have served in the U.S. armed forces are eligible to apply for naturalization under the Immigration and Nationality ACT.

The test includes an English and civics test in which the person must demonstrate the ability to read, write and speak English.

“I mainly did it for Oklahoma and the country,” Ekron said, “I live here now, and I like serving and helping people.”

In addition to his military service, he decided to pursue work within the agricultural and farming industry.

“The United States is a bit more advanced in the farming and agriculture industry,” Ekron said, “I’ve always wanted to farm, and the technology and opportunities are better here.”

Despite the challenges of balancing his military training requirements and studying for the naturalization test, Ekron has remained committed to both.

“I am studying between trainings and in my downtime, and I am confident that I will pass the test,” Ekron said. “Always believe in yourself and try to do better.”

Ekron passed his naturalization test March 31 and will have his oath ceremony in the upcoming weeks.

Ekron resides in Pond Creek, Oklahoma with his wife Lauren. He will deploy with Task Force Tomahawk with more than 1,000 Oklahoma Army National Guardsmen in support of operations within U.S. Africa Command’s area of responsibility. While there, they will provide security support at multiple installations across three East African Counties.
Video by Staff Sgt. Reece Heck
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