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Columbian-born doctor enlists; earns citizenship

  • Published
  • By Steve Pivnick
  • 81st Medical Group Public Affairs
Although he is a brand new U.S. citizen, a Keesler Airman holds an even more unusual title: medical doctor.

Originally a native of Colombia, Airman 1st Class Mauricio De Castro Pretelt sought political asylum in America four years ago with his family. Then 23 years old, he had recently completed medical school as a general practice physician. 

"Due to the situation in Colombia at the time, we feared political persecution because my family was involved with the government," he said. His parents later returned to Colombia as the nation became more stable. 

Airman De Castro Pretelt, a laboratory technician with the 81st Medical Operations Squadron, has been working toward acquiring a license to practice medicine in the United States.  He has taken and passed two of three required exams. He takes his final medical board exam March 7 and, if successful, hopes to receive an Air Force commission as a physician. 

Airman De Castro Pretelt joined the Air Force in June 2006. Department of Homeland Security officials in Metairie, La., then accelerated his citizenship processing and he became a U.S. citizen Oct. 7, 2007. 

"(It was the) greatest achievement of my life," the Airman said. "The U.S. has been so great to me and my family," he said. "I want to repay the country I love and also become an Air Force physician." 
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