August 13, 2003
One of the two was U.S. Coast Guard Seaman Anna Grafchikova.
Grafchikova is currently serving at the Coast Guard Air Station in Sitka. Born in Chernogolovka, Moscow District, Russia. Grafchikova came to the U.S. when she was 17 to study at the University of Alaska in Anchorage.
Grafchikova came to the U.S. as an exchange student during her high school years. She thought it would be fun and challenging to study college here. She stayed with the family who had sponsored her in high school.
During the course of her studies Grafchikova considered her career choices. A friend of the family was a Coast Guard Aviation Survival Technician. She recalled how highly he spoke of the Coast Guard and after some consideration Grafchikova decided it was the right choice for her.
She graduated from college in August 2002 with honors and a bachelor's in computer science and joined the Coast Guard in November the same year.
Grafchikova excelled in basic training. She completed all of the training while serving as the yeoman for her company - Uniform 163. She was also the honor graduate and received the Navy League award for excellence.
To advance in the Coast Guard a member must be a U.S. citizen. For Grafchikova this meant naturalization. She met all of the eligibility requirements for naturalization. Then studied for the citizenship test and passed.
"I studied hard. The test had a lot of history and government questions on it, but I think it is important to understand how a country's government works, especially when you're part of it," said Grafchikova.
Executive Order 13269: Expedited Naturalization for Military Personnel sped her naturalization paperwork through the lengthy approval process and on June 20 Anna Grafchikova took the oath at the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services office in Anchorage. Her American mother and her recruiter attended the ceremony.
"It is such a different feeling to walk outside your door and know you belong here, this is my home," said Grafchikova.
As a full citizen of the U.S. Grafchikova has taken the next step in her career she has submitted her paperwork to be considered for Officer Candidate School. She would like to spend her career as a Coast Guard pilot. Helicopters or C-130s she wants to try flying both.
"I should hear something in September," she said. "Hopefully it will be good news."
In the meantime Grafchikova keeps busy at the air station. In September Grafchikova will return to her native Russia as an interpreter. "She was specifically requested by the district commander (Rear Adm. James Underwood), to participate in joint international endeavors," said Chief Keith Wilbee, chief of public works at Air Station Sitka. "She has a unique combination of bilingual abilities, impressive professionalism and knowledge of Coast Guard procedures and terminology."
In April she was in Kodiak as an interpreter for the official visit of the Russian Federal Border Guard Service. She also spent a few days on the Coast Guard cutter Chase while they returned from a patrol of the Maritime Boundary Line to Kodiak and conducted a professional exchange with the Russian Federal Border Guard vessel Neva. Grafchikova was actually the first person to talk to the Neva when the vessels rendezvoused. She continued to translate when Russian officials came aboard the Chase.
Her visit to Russia in September will be similar. She will accompany the official party as Alaskan Coast Guard officials, including Rear Adm. Underwood; visit the Russian Federal Border Guard Service in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky.
Grafchikova's computer skills have been very useful to her in Sitka. "She is putting her degree to work at Air Station Sitka helping to develop a web site for the Public Works Department and assisting other departments with there sites," said Wilbee.
"This is all really exciting
for me, my parents in Russia are really proud," said Grafchikova.
Source of News Release & Photograph: