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AJ Tran: Semper Fidelis

AJ Tran: Semper Fidelis

By Edina Hadzic

AJ Tran, class of 2012, never liked IMP math. She became the president of Hypnotik during her sophomore year, says that Psychology with Mr. Charles Milbert, social science department, was her favorite class, and describes herself as a “typical Northsider.” During high school, Tran was uncertain about the careers and majors she wanted to pursue, but eventually settled on majoring in psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. Her experience as president of Hypnotik inspired her to minor in leadership as well.

Tran had no initial interest in joining the Army, let alone the Marines. While at UIUC, she had developed an interest in social psychology and determined that in the future she wanted to be able to lead a team and assist others in bettering themselves. However, she was unsure of how and where she would be able to find a career that encompassed both of these qualities. She toyed with the idea of becoming a psychologist for a corporation but knew that was not the type of job she wanted to have.

One day while leaving the gym she noticed a Marines Corps recruitment table. A large poster read that any woman who could do ten pull-ups would be eligible to enlist with the Marines. She did the ten pull-ups, not thinking too seriously about signing up until she talked to the scouting representative for three hours. Tran quickly realized that her leadership skills and studies in psychology would be greatly valued within the Marines, and enlisted after graduating from college.


Tran explains that she was able to obtain a higher rank within the Corps simply because she had a college degree. She works as a First Lieutenant within her platoon and says that from the beginning of her enlistment within the Corps she was in charge of some Marines who already had ten or more years of experience. As an officer, Tran is responsible for coordinating training with the rest of her squadron and maintaining the welfare of her platoon when they are not deployed. Tran works as a UVA (uniformed victim advocate), and teaches the importance of recognizing and respecting consent and maintaining healthy sexual relationships.

Tran describes that working in the Marines has helped her connect with people in ways that she never thought was possible. As a member of the Marines, Tran has been able to gain insight into issues that are much larger than herself. She described moments in which she helped one of her platoon members find legal resources and access to food stamps for his family after his father got deported. Her position allows her to work closely with people and requires her empathy, resourcefulness, and resilience. Besides addressing personnel issues, she helps her platoon enlist in classes outside of the Marines, and even is a part of a motorcycle club.

“When you join the Marines, you hit the ground running.” Tran explains that one of the best benefits of being a part of the Marines was that she was immediately trusted to handle responsibilities. She has been given incredible job opportunities and has been able to teach and mentor groups of up to 400 people. Above all, Tran describes her work to be satisfying because she can see it come to fruition through the development of the people she is working with.

For students who are interested in joining the military, Tran emphasizes the importance of researching and speaking to recruiters from each branch. She also notes that being in the military is something that anyone can find value in.


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