One foggy morning last week on Joint Base Lewis-McChords McChord Field, Iain Harrison boarded a C-17 Globemaster III to become a United States citizen.
After 13 years in the country, the season one winner of the History Channels highly rated marksmanship competition Top Shot took the oath of allegiance last Saturday before meeting and performing a shooting demonstration for Air Force reservists from the 446th Airlift Wing.
In fact, the trip brought things full circle for Harrison. He first came to McChord 20 years ago, for a training exercise as a lieutenant in the British Army.
Its a very significant base for me, my first trip to the Pacific Northwest was here, he said.
That was the beginning of Harrisons two-decade love affair with the United States. After serving eight years in the army in the U.K., he moved to Oregon in the late 1990s before becoming a contestant on Top Shot in 2009. The show takes competitive shooters and puts them through the gamut with different challenges and weapons to determine who truly is the best marksman.
Since then, hes been working for Crimson Trace, which makes laser tracing products for handguns. Now he gets paid to shoot at matches.
Its sort of a dream job for me, Harrison said.
But until recently the dream wasnt quite complete. He decided that it was time that he fully committed to the country and values he loves and he wanted to do it on a military installation.
Aside from the fact that taking his oath on a military aircraft is just cooler than doing it in an office in Portland, Harrison identifies with United States servicemembers and wanted them to know even the newest of citizens are grateful for what they do.
I really appreciate their dedication and commitment to their country, he said from the cockpit of the C-17 immediately after receiving his certificate of citizenship.
Im sure theres a lot of common bonds we share in spite of being in the military 6,000 miles apart, he said.
Following his oath, the shooter and amateur gunsmith went even further to get to know some of the Airmen of his newly adopted country and they got the chance to talk to him as well.
I think its awesome, Staff Sgt. Robert Peruzzi, 446th Airlift Wing, said after learning Harrison had become a citizen that morning. Thats what this country is about.
Peruzzi watched the show when it aired and is definitely a fan. In fact, he learned that he was actually there when Harrison came to Washington for the first time in 1991. At the time Peruzzi was serving with the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment and remembers the training exercise with the British Army.
He had no idea how close he had come to meeting Harrison when he was watching Top Shot in 2009.
For Peruzzi, the best part wasnt meeting a shooter he admired or even finding that common ground. It was getting to shoot a selection of Harrisons own competition guns at the demonstration that afternoon.
I was flipping ecstatic, he said when he was selected to try some of the weapons. This is Christmas early.
In the end, though, Harrisons story (and oath) was no more important than those of the other approximate 680,000 naturalized citizens welcomed to this country each year.
Every (ceremony) is special, Anne Arries Cosano of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said.
Each year approximately 680,000 people become naturalized citizens, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Since 2001, more than 70,000 members of the U.S. military have become citizens, in ceremonies performed in countries including Afghanistan, Iraq, Kosovo and the Philippines.
Top 10 states for naturalized citizens*: 1. California 2. New York 3. Florida 4. Texas 5. New Jersey 6. Illinois 7. Massachusetts 8. Georgia 9. Virginia 10. Washington
*72 percent of all naturalized citizens lived in these states in Fiscal Year 2010