Camp HM Smith, Hawaii --
Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders have served as an integral part of the U.S. Marine Corps and its history. The Indo-Pacific Region makes up two-thirds of the Marine Corps’ area of operations and responsibilities, and numerous Asian-American and Pacific Islanders fill the ranks of America’s military. One such individual is Col. John T. Nguyen, the Reserve Assistant Chief of Staff for the Information Environment Division, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific (MARFORPAC).
Nguyen was born in Saigon, Vietnam, in 1973. His family immigrated to the United States, where they settled in Southern California.
“Our family immigrated in 1975,” said Nguyen. “Our refugee camp was on Camp Pendleton, and that’s why I chose to be a Marine. It was always a big memory for me growing up. I always knew I was going to be a Marine.”
Nguyen attended the University of California, Los Angeles, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Applied Math, and participated in the Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps, aspiring to become a U.S. Marine Corps officer.
After receiving a commission in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1996 and graduating from The Basic School, Nguyen reported to the Communications Systems Officer Course. Upon graduation, he reported to Headquarters Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, to serve as a radio platoon commander and data platoon commander.
“By the time I was a captain, I started to realize that there aren’t that many senior officers that are Asian-American,” said Nguyen. “When I was a major and lieutenant colonel, people were congratulating me from the Asian-Pacific community, realizing that - whether or not they knew I was an immigrant or not - it was just this thing that you were one of the senior Vietnamese officers in the Marine Corps.”
According to Nguyen, he has been most honored to have served with Marines from all walks of life, specifically as a commanding officer.
“I know every senior officer who has had a command says it,” said Nguyen. “It is the amount of responsibility that is placed on you. That is probably the biggest honor.”
Nguyen currently serves as the Reserve Assistant Chief of Staff for Information Environment Division, MARFORPAC; in his time out of uniform, he has founded an information technology consulting business, aiding companies in meeting their business objectives.
After more than 25 years of service, Nguyen credits the Marines he continues to serve with as his driving motivation to continue serving in the Marine Corps.
“It’s working with Marines; that’s number one,” Nguyen said. “Second are the opportunities, the different units, and exercises. I had the opportunity to deploy to Iraq, I volunteered to deploy to Afghanistan, and attended professional military education along the way. The little things keep me around, too.”