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Citizenship Speeded Up for Sailor : Naturalization: The Philippine-born seaman takes the oath early because of the gulf conflict.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Philippine-born sailor Napoleon Morata, a resident of Oxnard now serving in the U.S. Navy, was naturalized as an American citizen two months earlier than scheduled Thursday in a ceremony that was expedited because of the Middle East crisis.

“I just want to be an American citizen, heart and soul. I’ve been waiting 3 1/2 years for this,” Morata said before taking his citizen’s oath in Ventura County Superior Court. “If I’m going to be serving this country, I should be a citizen.”

Pearly Randle, an Immigration and Naturalization Service representative handling Morata’s case, said the procedure was moved up from a November date because of the possibility that Morata might be shipped out of the country because of activity in the Mideast.

Morata is now stationed aboard the Navy freighter Wabash in Long Beach.

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“He says he is on 72-hour notice,” Randle said. “To have the naturalization done like this, a person has to have an order that he might be going out in seven days. He brought us a letter from his commanding officer earlier today.”

The 30-year-old Morata, calm and soft-spoken, would not confirm or deny such an order.

“It’s up to the supervisors,” he said. “We’re on duty, if we get called, we’ll go.”

With an audience consisting of Morata’s parents, an older brother, a sister-in-law and about seven other curious onlookers, presiding Ventura County Judge Edwin M. Osborne asked Morata, attired in a white sailor’s uniform, to stand, raise his right hand and take the oath of citizenship.

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Included in the oath were promises to “bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by law” and to engage in combat if necessary.

“One would judge from your uniform that at least part of that oath is not a concern to you,” Osborne said. “You know what you’re getting into.”

The waiting was suddenly over for Morata, the naturalization process lasting no more than five minutes. His new citizenship was greeted by enthusiastic applause and handshakes from family members as his mother took pictures of the celebration.

The naturalization hearing was the first in three years in Ventura County, which had to discontinue the service because of budgetary problems, court officials said.

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Morata came to the United States in August, 1986, leaving behind a wife and two children. He joined his parents and five brothers and sisters in Oxnard. Six months later he enlisted in the Navy.

Morata is the last of his immediate family to become an American citizen. He applied for citizenship in January and took the initial examination Wednesday. During the examination Morata let it be known that he might be sent abroad, so the naturalization hearing date was moved up.

Morata is not the only person in his family with a military connection. His brother, Vladimir, served eight years in the Navy and his sister-in-law, Andrea, is in the naval reserve.

“If something happens, we just have to do what we can do. When you’re in the service, your main job is to defend and serve. I would be doing the same thing.”

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