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Transitioning from Swedish citizen to American Airman

Senior Airman Isabell Lindva, 460th Space Wing Medical Group medical technician, joined the United States Air Force during a trip to America. Born and raised in Stockholm, Sweden, the then 27 year old could not join the Swedish military because of age restrictions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Emily E. Amyotte/Released)

Senior Airman Isabell Lindva, 460th Space Wing Medical Group medical technician, joined the United States Air Force during a trip to America. Born and raised in Stockholm, Sweden, the then 27 year old could not join the Swedish military because of age restrictions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Emily E. Amyotte/Released)

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Growing up watching her grandmother work on a Swedish military base, Senior Airman Isabell Lindva, 460th Space Wing Medical Group medical technician, had always looked up to those who serve.

In the U.S. armed forces, similar to other militaries, there's a maximum age limit for joining. Other countries, however, have a lower cut-off age than the U.S.

Lindva encountered this problem when she went to join the military. In her home country of Sweden, the age limit for enlisting is 24, and when she decided to enlist, it was too late for the then 27 year old.

"I've always wanted to join the military, but in Sweden," she said. "It's been something I've wanted since I was little. I always wanted to be 'one of those.'"

Lindva grew up in Stockholm, Sweden and lived there until 2009 when she took a trip to America as a way to experience another country. She had wanted to visit America since she was young, but when becoming a foreign exchange student in high school didn't work out, she looked into other options.

In 2009, Lindva became an au pair, or a domestic assistant from a foreign country working for, and living with a host family, in Great Falls, Virginia. Originally, she planned on only spending a year here working as a nanny and living with the family, but after making new relationships and settling in, America also became her home.
After spending some time in the U.S., she learned that people can join the military at an older age than in Sweden and she finally had her chance to become 'one of those.'

Lindva's next step was to take the oath to become an Airman in the U.S. Air Force.

During the beginning stages of her enlistment process, she had a green card, meaning that she could only live and work in the U.S., but was not a citizen. But upon graduating basic military training, she became naturalized, making her one of the few in the Air Force who has gained citizenship through an enlistment.

"It's rare," said John C. Wen, 460th Force Support Squadron personnel and naturalization specialist, speaking on foreigners who gain citizenship through military service. "With the three years I've been in, there have been six people who have gained citizenship through me."

Only two percent of the Air Force has gained citizenship by taking the Oath of Allegiance to the U.S. Constitution. Airmen, including Lindva, first have to take a test to prove their good moral character, knowledge on the English language and U.S. government and history.

"There's two ways to gain citizenship through the military," Wen said. "The first way is before their graduation at basic training, they have a chance to swear in to be a U.S. citizen. The second way is they have to go over to the military personnel flight at their first duty station after tech school and they can apply with the immigration office."

Because Lindva wasn't a citizen when she was recruited into the military, her choices were limited when it came to job opportunities. She currently works in the medical career field, but her dream job in the Air Force is the Office of Special Investigations, she said. Because of the Air Force, she is able to finish her bachelor's degree in criminal justice, in which she hopes to put into good use, makingĀ  OSI a life-long career.

Although she is enjoying being in the U.S., Lindva still misses parts of being back home, she said.

"It's been hard because my family is in Sweden, all my family and friends -- and the food!" she laughed as she joked about the differences in culture.

Lindva says that the biggest difference between the Swedish and U.S. military is that people in Sweden don't tend to make the military a career. In Sweden, members generally serve six months to a year then spend the rest of their time in the reserves.

Being a first-term Airman on Buckley, Lindva said that she appreciates the many great opportunities that the military has offered her and she's excited to see where the U.S. Air Force will take her next.

"I've always wanted to serve," Lindva said. "I think it's a good opportunity. I think it's a good experience to be in the military."
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