MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. --
“I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.”
That’s the Oath of Allegiance that Airman Michelle Faith Ashley recited on Jan. 20, 2023, during the Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony in Wichita, Kansas.
Michelle Faith is a member of the Kansas Air National Guard’s 184th Wing, Comptroller Flight, at McConnell Air Force Base. It was through her military service that her path to citizenship was realized, but her journey began long before.
Michelle Faith grew up in the Philippines in conditions most Americans have never experienced.
Basic necessities such as water, electricity, and heat didn’t come easy.
“I remember during my childhood, the area we lived in had electricity, my family just didn’t have money to pay for it when I was a kid,” she said. “One thing we also did at that time was build fires to cook our meals because we couldn’t afford to pay for gas. My dad and brother would walk around the neighborhood picking up sticks and branches to make fire.”
“During that time, there was still no water system, so we got our water delivered,” she said. “When we didn’t have money for that we collected rainwater. We filtered rainwater, and we’d boil it so we could use it for cooking.”
Michelle Faith described her parents as hard workers. Their example helped her develop a strong work ethic at a young age which led to bigger opportunities.
“My brother and I got a half-scholarship to get into a private school in high school,” she said. “I graduated high school at 16 and got into college that same year. But I didn’t finish that because we had no money.”
To earn money, she got a job at a small grocery story working 12-hour days. When she turned 18, she started working for an airline company.
“They were paying me way more than other 18-year-olds at that time because I spoke English,” she said.
The Love Connection
Soon after, Michelle Faith met her husband, Andrew Ashley.
Andrew is a U.S. Air Force technical sergeant in the 299th Network Operations Squadron, which is assigned to the 184th Wing. He’s an IT specialist and his squadron provides network capabilities to every unit in the Air National Guard.
Michelle Faith moved to the U.S. on a spouse visa to be with Andrew in 2018.
It was through Andrew that Michelle Faith learned about the college benefits offered to members of the Kansas Air National Guard.
The Kansas Air National Guard pays up to 100% of tuition for members who are residents of Kansas. They also offer the Montgomery GI Bill, the GI Bill Kicker, and other monetary incentives to help members pay for living expenses while attending college.
At last, Michelle Faith had an opportunity to finish the college degree she started years earlier.
Sign Here, Here, and Here…Raise Your Right Hand
Michelle Faith enlisted in the 184th Wing in December 2021. In March 2022, she went to basic military training followed by a technical school.
After graduating from training, she returned to McConnell Air Force Base and began the citizenship process.
“When I got here they said I have to do a certification of military service form that has to be signed by a colonel or above,” she said. “Colonel Joe Dessenberger signed it for me after I took my [physical fitness] test and passed it.”
Michelle Faith submitted the required forms for citizenship in October, and in December she completed her interview, an English test, and a civics test.
“After passing the tests, they gave me a date for my oath ceremony, and that was Jan. 20, 2023,” she said.
When it was all said and done, she had taken three oaths pledging her allegiance to the United States of America. One to enlist in the Kansas Air National Guard, one upon graduating U.S. Air Force Basic Military Training, and one to become a U.S. citizen.
A Shared Success
Now that Michelle Faith is a citizen, she plans to bring her mother to the United States.
“I want to take care of her but you can’t bring your parents here if you’re not a citizen,” she said. “Now I can process her stuff and bring her here.”
Michelle Faith expressed her gratitude for everyone who helped her through the process.
“My unit has been very, very supportive,” she said. ”My first supervisor was Technical Sergeant Cara Parise, and she really helped me get my certification of military service signed by Colonel Dessenberger. She helped me get everything I needed throughout the whole process.”
“I don’t think I’d know what to do if they didn’t help me,” she said.
The Comptroller Flight celebrated the event that has become a milestone in her life.
“We were excited for her,” said Maj. Darral Garner, commander, 184th Comptroller Flight. “Michelle Faith has been an awesome addition to our flight; she has invigorated the American Spirit in our office. Her gratefulness is contagious. We could not be happier to have her on our team.”
Michelle Faith plans to stay in the military for a very long time. Her future plans are to finish her degree and possibly become a commissioned officer.