DAVIS, California (March 25, 2021) – Mentoring others is one of the many skills a leader needs to be able to do to be successful at their job, and the Gold Bar Recruiter program allows new officers to build on that skill by working with current ROTC cadets.
Junior officers volunteer for the duty for various reasons, but for 2nd Lt. Hoang Vo Anh Tran, it’s been an experience to show young future officers that the Army is stronger with a diverse population filling the ranks.
Tran was born and raised in Saigon, in southern Vietnam. He and his family were given a chance to immigrate into the U.S via his grandmother’s sponsorship in 2012. He said growing up in Saigon was very different from life in the United States.
“Asian stereotypical expectation, especially in Vietnam, heavily limits one’s creativity and personal expression. The Vietnamese education is the opposite of first-world countries, such as that of the United States’,” he explained. “In particular, the learning environment is strictly monitored, and the curriculum is taught with much political bias. Moreover, from elementary until high school, teachers often suggest students to attend their after-hours supplemental classes to make additional income.”
“Young adults in Vietnam are unable to follow their dreams, instead, most of them are prone to join the bandwagons of social expectations,” he added. “Professions in engineering, medical, and educations are highly regarded and respected. Unfortunately, in Vietnam, if one works in anything outside of the big three professions, such as an artist or a military member, they are looked down upon as societal failures.”
Tran said when the opportunity presented itself, his family seized the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to provide better future for him and his siblings by immigrating to the U.S. that lead him on a path to joining the U.S. Army as a Soldier.
“Initially, I was attracted to join the U.S. military because I needed financial support to attend college and to provide for my family. However, in my first few years in the California Army National Guard, I was motivated to serve as an American Soldier after learning about the meaningful military culture and values,” he shared. “In addition, as a Wheeled Mechanic, I had a chance to acquire critical hands-on training that further inspired me to pursue a Mechanical Engineering B.S degree at a four-year institution. The knowledge and leadership experiences that I had gained were incredibly valuable and crucial in shaping me into a leader I am today as well as an Army Officer.”
Being a Soldier in the U.S. wasn’t something Tran’s family was on board with – initially.
“It was difficult to persuade my parents when I informed them about my intention in joining the Army. They reacted with confusion and disbelief. In Vietnam, being a military service member is not something to brag about. Thus, they could not understand why I would want to enlist in the military and sacrifice my life,” he said. “However, my family eventually came to recognize my perseverance and saw how hard I have worked for the past seven years to achieve my career goal as an Army commission officer. I have since gained full support and encouragement from my entire family.”
Tran went on to later be an ROTC Cadet at UC Davis, the same school where he has been serving as a Gold Bar Recruiter. He said his time as a Cadet is part of what inspired him to take up the role of a Gold Bar Recruiter.
“Being a Cadet in the UC Davis Army ROTC program for three years, the peers, and mentors that I had encountered inspired and guided me when I was lost and needed support the most. Thus, having been in their shoes not too long ago, I understand the struggles and perspective of younger cadets,” he said. As a Gold Bar Recruiter, I aspire to be a mentor and helpful adviser for the Cadets who might be in the same shoes as I was just three years ago. Additionally, as a Gold Bar Recruiter, I also hope to spread and convey the U.S. Army leadership to prospective Cadets who are looking into a possible military career.”
His duties at UC Davis have benefited the Cadets, cadre and Tran.
“As the UC Davis Gold Bar Recruiter in a COVID-19 environment, I have conducted numerous virtual engagements over Zoom with prospective cadets. In the absence of a ROO, I interacted with all interested high school students and potential transfers through interviews and information sessions, resulting in new participating students for the Winter/Spring Quarters,” he explained. “I led the on-boarding process that took the prospects from initial interest through course registration, paperwork completion, and integration into the program. My consistent engagement with the UC Davis and CSU Sacramento junior Cadets was necessary to maintain Cadet satisfaction with their ROTC experience.”
“In addition to my recruiting responsibilities, I took advantage of every opportunity to assist with the planning and execution of leadership labs, physical fitness tests, and training exercises,” he added. “I have been continuously learning and seeking knowledge from the senior cadre members to develop myself into a leader and Army officer.”
Sharing his story and encouraging others has been one of Tran’s favorite parts of being a Gold Bar Recruiter.
‘I was able to take advantage of my personal background as an immigrant Asian American to contribute to the program’s diverse culture. Within my environment, there are not a lot of Asian American who are interested in the military because they might be thinking the military is not for Asians. However, being an Asian American in the program who is entering a military officer career, I am the proof that the military is for everyone,” he said. “There is also a minor population of prior enlisted service members who are looking for smooth transition into a military officer career which is another place where my personal experience comes in. Having been a prior enlisted myself with seven years of service, I am equipped with useful knowledge to assist prior service members with their adjustment from being an enlisted, to a ROTC cadet, and then becoming an officer.”
Tran said he is grateful for all he has been able to experience as a result of his family immigrating to the U.S.
“If I had remained in Vietnam, I would have graduated from the university I was attending before coming to the States and went on to work a 9 to 5 mundane civilian job. Moreover, I would have struggled to support my family due to the unstable income for middle class family and the rampant poverty in Vietnam. Most importantly, I would have never in my life imagined becoming a military officer,” Tran said. “I am fortunate to have been able to come to the states, enlist into the U.S. Army, become a ROTC Cadet and finally becoming a commissioned Army officer.”