Grissom Airman from Nigeria becomes U.S. citizen

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Rachel Barton
  • 434th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

The uniform doesn’t tell the whole story. From the outside we may dress alike, but every person that zips up their blouse has their own unique story, a story of how they got here, or why they choose to serve, and because of their journey some of those storytellers can do so in multiple languages.

Senior Airman Gentle Onuora speaks four languages: English, Pidgin English, Igbo and Portuguese. He has a diploma in accounting and an advanced diploma in banking and finance from the University of Abuja in Nigeria. Even with these accomplishments under his belt, serving in the military was always in the back of his mind.

Born in Nigeria, Onuora, a 434th Civil Engineer Squadron pest management specialist, moved to the United States in 2015, and became a citizen in October 2021 through his military service.

Onuora says his father was the inspiration for him to join the Air Force.

“My dad was in the Nigerian civil war from 1967 to 1970,” Onuora said. “He encouraged me to join the military. He always told me that the military is good and to join if I could.”

The Air Force is not what initially drew Onuora to the land of opportunity. At the time he moved here, it was in order to be with family. As he was establishing a new life on American soil, he continued to feel a call to military service.

“I felt like I was getting older so how would I be able to join the military?” Onuora said. “But I did some online research about the Air Force and I contacted a recruiter.”

While he began the process in 2017, it would be two years before he officially enlisted.

It was during his technical training, that he learned more than just entomology – he learned how becoming a citizen could be achieved easier through military service.

“A lot of people don’t know that they can get their citizenship through the military,” said Onuora. “It would be good for people that are trying to get their citizenship to know about this. It’s faster and less expensive than the traditional way.”

Normally, applicants must reside in the United States for a minimum of five years before applying for naturalization but U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services waives the application and bio-metric fees for applicants who have served one year or more in the U.S. military.

“It’s been my dream and I’m so happy to be in the U.S. Air Force, the greatest Air Force in the world,” he said. “And now I am a citizen serving the United States and making my family proud.”

Onuora trains one weekend a month at Grissom and the team he’s on is responsible for controlling and preventing infestations that could impair military mission success – regardless of the location.

“Airman Onuora has become a large part of our shop,” said Master Sgt. Robert Rzasa, 434th pest management flight supervisor. “He’s upbeat, knowledgeable and ready to go. He’s really good at what he does, he’s a good pest manager and I feel like I can go to him to get the job done.”

Onuora says his future plans include completing a degree in cyber security and continuing to do volunteer work with the through his alma mater’s U.S. chapter, which benefits America’s homeless populations and Nigerian orphanages. He looks forward to serving for years to come, wherever the Air Force might take him.

“The Air Force is one of the best things that ever happened to me,” said Onuora. “I am so happy for the opportunity and I want to serve for at least ten to 20 years.”

More information on paths to naturalization through military service can be found at

The 434th ARW is the largest KC-135R Stratotanker unit in the Air Force Reserve Command. The Citizen Airmen from the Hoosier Wing routinely deploy around the world in support of the Air Force mission.

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