USAMRIID's workforce is comprised of extraordinary and unique individuals, and Private First Class Nilay Yurt is no exception. Yurt is a female Soldier of Turkish descent serving in the United States Army and recently received her American citizenship. During a time of war, one year of service in the U.S. military grants soldiers from other countries citizenship, a benefit of which Private First Class Yurt took advantage. She represented one of the 17 nations that awarded soldiers their citizenship on 25 May 2010. The naturalization ceremony took place at the National Guard Armory in Silver Spring.
She moved from Turkey to the United States in March of 2008, joined the Army on June 1, 2009 and has been at USAMRIID for about three months. While female soldiers in the U.S. military are no longer a rarity, she says it is not as commonly found in Turkey. "Joining the military for women is not usual in Turkey. There are some female soldiers and officers in the Turkish Army but it's not as common as here," said Yurt. This vast transition caused mixed emotions between her families but she received an overall supportive response. "When I decided to join the U.S .Army, my mom was scared but all my family is so proud of me," she said. Yurt was raised in Izmir, Turkey, where her father and brothers still live. Until joining the U.S. Army was suggested to her, she had planned on finishing school in Izmir and working. "A close friend who works at an American base in Izmir said, 'why don't you apply to the military?'" I had a green card but I was not a U.S. citizen yet and I didn't know I could apply," she said. She describes her experience being a female Turk in the U.S. Army as "odd and interesting." She was surprised to learn that many Soldiers were unaware of Turkey and the Turkish culture. "It is very odd for them that a Turk, especially a Turkish female, would join the U.S. military," she said. "They don't know much about us and this is why I surprise them a lot." She is also a published author in her homeland of Turkey. Her first book of poetry, Pulsuz Mektup, was published in 2007. Along with writing, she also enjoys painting, reading, singing in Turkish, listening to music and dancing. While in Turkey she made jewelry and ornaments. "I cannot live without the arts, especially without writing and painting, no matter what my job is," she said. She has a four-year contract with the Army and is undecided whether or not she will pursue a military career afterwards. "I have not decided whether to stay or not yet, but if I stay I am planning to be an officer. Also, I might change my MOS to a Linguist," she said. "I finished AIT last February, my duty has just started, and so far everything is good, so if nothing makes me change my mind, I will stay."