SOUTHWEST ASIA --
For many young people, the years following high school are a vital time of development and discovering their unique niche in the world. Some decide to pursue higher education while others immediately join the workforce. For a select few however, these routes in life leave them feeling empty and in search of challenge and meaning.
For U.S. Marine Sgt. Duc Nguyen, a rifleman with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, Special Purpose Marine Corps Air-Ground Task Force – Crisis Response – Central Command, the Marine Corps filled that gap in his life, while continuing to inspire and motivate him every day.
“I was 26 when I joined,” said Nguyen. “I feel like during their twenties, a person is still discovering who they are and what they want to do for the rest of their life. I looked at my life and knew that I couldn’t be happy with my career forever. I had always considered the military, and I knew that I wasn’t getting any younger, so I went for it and joined.”
Nguyen had already graduated high school, completed two years of community college, and owned a stable business selling brake rotors, before taking the first few steps to join the military.
After speaking to multiple recruiters from different branches of service, it took little time before Nguyen realized that the Marine Corps offered the intense training, leadership potential, and high standards of professionalism that most appealed to him. He ultimately enlisted through Recruiting Sub-station Santa Ana, Marine Recruiting Station Orange County.
“To me, the military is about professionalism,” said Nguyen. “How you look, how you speak, and how you present yourself are all important parts of that package. No other branch compared to the Marine Corps. At the end of the day I know that the standards that I’m held to are the highest because I’m in the Marine Corps. I derive a great deal of pride from knowing that I can be part of that.”
It was excitement and challenge which led Nguyen to gravitate toward the Marine Corps and it was this same set of desires that also brought him to the infantry field.
“I always wanted to lead,” said Nguyen. “I wanted to test my fortitude and strength. The Marine Corps offered me an opportunity to lead in a combat environment which could challenge me in ways that I couldn’t even imagine.”
Since joining, the Marine Corps has met, if not exceeded, all expectations, Nguyen said. He deployed to Afghanistan with 3/7 in 2014 and says that because of that, he is a stronger and more reliable individual.
Though Nguyen has made many personal and professional strides, he says that he couldn’t have made the transformation alone.
“Since I joined, I’ve met a lot of great experienced leaders,” said Nguyen. “Being an infantryman, there is this idea that picking up rank is a long and difficult process. I knew that was wrong, and I sought out leaders who provided me with the skills and knowledge that I needed to improve myself without getting stuck in that mindset. I think that it is important to set goals but not limits.”
Nguyen has been promoted to the rank of sergeant in less than three years and continues to improve himself every day, regardless of the challenges set before him.
Currently, Nguyen works in supporting roles within the Ground Combat Element of the SPMAGTF, assuring Marines are up-to-date with training and other administrative matters. He also serves as an assistant to the operations chief and as a Buddhist lay leader at the religious service facility. He said he prides himself on being well rounded, and this deployment has presented him with opportunities for growth.
“The Marine Corps has challenged me in a lot of different ways that have forced me to adapt and solve a lot of different problems,” said Nguyen. “Different people require different types of leadership, and different problems require different types of problem solving. Without the Marine Corps I would be a lot more limited in my thinking and less flexible in stressful situations.”
Nguyen is considering his options for the future. A long career in the Marine Corps is an option, but he said he knows that even if he decides to leave the service he is equipped with the skills to be successful anywhere.