A Letter of Realization After graduating from The Citadel in 2002, all my dreams of becoming an officer in the Croation Armed Forces came true. But the education has not ended and it took more months of military trainings and studying to reach the standards of becoming a Croation Officer. I proudly got my first command positioning in March of 2003. At that time, it was still just a dream...commanding the only unit of the Croation military that is deployed to any peace operation in the world - a Military Police unit trained specifically for ISAF, the NATO mission in Afghanistan. My commanders put me on the hard road to prove that I am good enough of an officer and strong enough as a person to win this postioning and lead the troops to Kabul. Once again, the patience, endurance and the strength that mostly The Citadel evolved in me to endure all this and prove myself worthy of their trust. So in February, 2004, I gathered my new unit, trained and selected them for the following six months and, by August, 2004, I was on my way to Kabul, Afghanistan. My function here is triple. I am commandingall of the Croation MPs in Afghanistan (38 of them), commander of the Croation Camp inside the Camp Warehouse in Kabul, and within the Kabul Multinational Brigade (KMNB) Military Police Coy. I work as an Operations and Plans Officer. Commanding and taking care of my soldiers has been quite challenging so far - making sure that they have all they need so far from home, being there when they are sick, tired, angry or joyful and at the same time plan patrols, operations, missions for the whole Coy (92 multinational MPs). Being one of two females in the contingent and being the first female ever to command the national operational unit in the peace operation an even bigger challenge - hard, tough, and at the moment, almost impossible to handle. But The Citadel prepeared me for that, too. When I remember knob year in 1998, and how I thought that I could never make it and then I remember how far I came by 2002, I know I can make it anywhere. When I feel worse and when situations and problems of leadership seem hardest, when no decision I make seems good enough or fair enough, I get the words of Col Lackey (Commandant of Cadets), "Girl, it is hard work to be a commander and a good commander is never a popular one. Do what you know is right and remember, it is a lonley place on top." The Citadel made me who I am today and taught me what kind of leader I wanted to be. I hope to remain faithful and follow this path until the end of my military career. The gold Citadel ring on my hand, that I even carry in Kabul, is my daily reminder of who and what I must not fail. Respectfully, Lt. Vlasta Zelulic Platoon Commander, MN MP CoyI'd say the boys along the banks of the Ashley figured out the women were here to stay and to just get on with it. It sounds like she got a good schooling in leadership. The Citadel has a legacy of training foreign students. There were many Thai Army Officers who graduated from there, and many Iranian Naval Officers. A few in the classes before me, and many after. They came already commissioned, with their connections with to the Shah's family. Those still awaiting graduation in the spring of 1979 could not return to their homeland, because they would have been executed.
Tuesday, May 31, 2005
A Legacy of Change - A Citadel Grad Reports
In 1993, Shannon Faulkner was accepted into The Citadel. Upon her receiving the acceptance, it then was made known that Shannon was, in fact, a female. She had filled out the entrance application properly, except for one block, the gender one. Her academics were fine, and all those other things that go into determining whether an applicant is accepted. Thus began the legal and functional ordeal of women entering The Citadel. The all-male system had shock waves through it. It appears things have smoothed out. In 1999, the first woman, Nancy Mace, graduated. In doing a little googling, I found she has written a book on her experience, which seemed to get good reviews on Amazon. Anyhow, that's not the point. My most recent Alumni News magazine had a letter from Lt Vlasta Zekulic of the Croation Army, that I think tells a great story. Here it is: