ALEXANDRIA, Va.--(EON: Enhanced Online News)--For U.S. Army Maj. Marco Ladino Avellaneda, January 14, 2010, is a day he describes as his “second birth.” It’s the day this doctor from Bogota, Colombia recited the Pledge of Allegiance and became a U.S. citizen.
“When I learned about the advantages of MAVNI, I was so excited. I couldn’t believe it and am so grateful for this program.”
Dr. Ladino Avellaneda had long dreamed of pursuing a medical career in the United States and eventually attaining American citizenship. His version of the American dream is now reality due to his desire to serve the country that he says has blessed him with so many professional and personal opportunities.
Ladino Avellaneda attained U.S. citizenship one month after applying thanks to an Army recruitment program that seeks to bolster the ranks of officers with medical expertise and particular foreign language and cultural skills. The program is called Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI).
“I came to the United States with my wife in 2004 to pursue medical training, and we’ve been building a life here with our two children. I wanted to give back and help those who are protecting our freedoms,” said Ladino Avellaneda. “For me, joining the U.S. Army Reserve through the MAVNI program wasn’t just about becoming a citizen. It was also about service, leadership training and the flexibility to pursue civilian medical job options that were fulfilling to me.”
As a civilian doctor at a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., hospital, Ladino Avellaneda specializes in nephrology, treating patients with kidney disease. As an Army Reserve officer he has deployed to Kosovo and treated Soldiers suffering from ailments such as pneumonia, skin conditions, hypertension, infections and other acute diseases. Ladino Avellaneda says since joining the U.S. Army, he’s matured and improved his leadership abilities by serving as an officer and being in charge of other Soldiers.
“While the Army is meeting its overall recruiting goals, shortages in certain critical skill areas continue,” said Medical Recruiting Brigade Commander Col. Karrie Fristoe. “MAVNI is helping us fill those gaps with people who are highly qualified and eager to serve our Nation.”
MAVNI expands military service eligibility to attract legal non-citizens for health care positions, including general dentists, oral surgeons, family physicians, internal medicine physicians, licensed clinical social workers, psychiatrists and other critically short specialties. In return, the recruits can accelerate the process to becoming citizens.
MAVNI officers can serve on active duty or in the Army Reserve and immediately qualify for U.S. citizenship. The military is the only employer that can offer expedited citizenship and eliminate the need to obtain a Green Card.
MAVNI participants also can enhance their work in the military and in civilian practice with opportunities for training and advanced schooling, experience in trauma settings and leadership experience.
To participate in the MAVNI program, medical personnel applicants must be licensed health care professionals in the U.S. and belong to a specified non-immigrant visa category or the category of asylee, refugee or Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for at least two years immediately prior to entering the Army. Applicants must not have been absent from the U.S. for more than 90 days during this two-year period.
Dr. Ladino Avellaneda was a J-1 visa holder, which allowed him to come to the U.S. for medical training as part of an educational and cultural exchange program. He learned that he could expedite the citizenship process without returning to his home country for two years or getting a work visa.
“I was planning to become a U.S. citizen in 10 years and was exploring options for obtaining a work visa to allow me to stay in the U.S.,” said Ladino Avellaneda. “When I learned about the advantages of MAVNI, I was so excited. I couldn’t believe it and am so grateful for this program.”
Ladino Avellaneda says he has no intention of leaving the U.S. Army after his required service time is met. He is proud to be a U.S. Army Reserve officer and U.S. citizen, and he wants to serve this country for many years to come.
About the U.S. Army Medical Department
One of the largest health care networks in the world, the Army Medical Department offers more than 90 professional health care career paths – more than any other military service. Practicing physicians and other health professionals can choose to serve in active duty or as part of the Army Reserve and may receive up to a $75,000 special pay bonus in eligible specialties. For more information, visit goarmy.com/amedd.html.
About the Army Marketing and Research Group
The Army Marketing and Research Group (AMRG) is the U.S. Army's national marketing, marketing research and analysis and accessions analysis organization. The AMRG develops innovative and effective ways to: connect with the American public and make the Army more accessible and understood; increase awareness of both the benefits and value of Army service; and motivate the most qualified candidates to choose the Army as their service of first choice.