Coming to America

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas-- Senior Airman Senior Airman McThobert Carreon, 17th Medical Operations Squadron public health technician, works at his desk in the Ross Clinic June 25. Carreon is an immigrant from the Philippines and his first time in the U.S. was on his way to basic training. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Jessica Keith)

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas-- Senior Airman Senior Airman McThobert Carreon, 17th Medical Operations Squadron public health technician, works at his desk in the Ross Clinic June 25. Carreon is an immigrant from the Philippines and his first time in the U.S. was on his way to basic training. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Jessica Keith)

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas-- -- Try to imagine yourself alone on a plane in a foreign country with no friends or family close by. Now try to imagine you are on the way to basic training.

This is the situation Senior Airman McThobert Carreon, 17th Medical Operations Squadron public health technician, found himself in when he decided to enlist in the U.S. Air Force. He was born and raised in the Philippines.

According to Carreon, the Philippines is one of the most westernized Asian- Pacific countries, but there are still many differences from the U.S.

"For me, the most important difference is the huge amount of opportunities there are in the U.S.," he added. "Here, through hard work and dedication you can accomplish almost anything. In the Philippines, unless you are very wealthy, you have little access to higher education and there is very little you can do to improve yourself or your quality of life."

A positive difference is the work ethic he learned growing up. He said that even on the weekends people are expected to be up and working before sunrise so he grew up accustomed to hard work. This is part of what gave him the drive to come to the U.S. and seek a better life.

Carreon did not come straight to the U.S. from the Philippines. Originally, he moved to Guam, an American territory, to be with his parents who had moved there a few years before. After living there for a year, he decided to join the U.S. Air Force. The flight to basic training was his first time in the country.

"While Guam is an American territory, the culture there is very different from that of mainland U.S.," he said. "So I had a lot of adjusting to do and very little time to do it."

Carreon said even though this was his first experience in such a regimented life-style he was able to acclimate himself much faster than he expected because the military is so diverse.

"I saw people from around the world and knew I wasn't the only one who was different, which is something I really didn't expect," he added. "In the Philippines, almost everyone you see is Filipino so if you are from somewhere else you really stand out but here I was just another person going to basic training."

Carreon said he joined the military because he wanted to give something back to the U.S. for allowing him to come here.

"I felt it was very important for me to give something back to the states for giving me my green card," he said. "Coming to America gave me educational opportunities I just wouldn't have had in the Philippines. I am very grateful for the opportunities to better myself and serving is my way of saying thanks."

It was a momentous day in May of last year when he became a U.S. citizen, Carreon said.

There are numerous qualifications to be met before citizenship can be achieved, among them are proving you are of good moral character, being able to read and write English well and passing an extensive test on knowledge of American history and culture.

He said he was nearly overcome with joy and a sense of accomplishment the day he stood in front of a judge and took the oath that officially made him an American.

"I am now a fully fledged American citizen," he said with his head held high. "More than that, I am an American Airman and I intend to make a career out of the military. There is nothing else I would rather do."

Now that he is a citizen, Carreon said his next goal is to pursue a nursing degree. He said while he enjoys his current career field he believes being a military nurse would suit him even better.

"I am a very social person," he said. "I like to help others and meet new people so becoming a nurse is a great move for me."

Carreon's dedication to the military and his career shows; his supervisor, Tech. Sgt. Camille Horton, 17th MDG public health NCOIC, said he is a stand-up Airman who is highly respected within his office.

"From day one Carreon has been sharp and professional," she said. "His dedication to the Air Force and work ethic is one that all Airmen should emulate. There is no challenge too large or small for him; he will figure out a way to get it done."