Student pursues family tradition in Marine Corps

Marine officer candidate Joe Zarzycki attends Eastern Michigan University as a junior, studying aviation management and general management. How did this university student decide to tackle both academics and a military career? He was watching a movie that pulled at his patriotic heart strings.

“While watching ‘The Hurt Locker’ in Canada, it really made me want to move back to the U.S. and have a purpose in serving our country,” said Zarzycki.

He decided that playing college hockey was not helping anyone and neither was going to school, but joining the Marines would bring purpose back into his life.

“I always wanted to get into the military and the Marine Corps is kind of a family tradition,” said Zarzycki.

“In his 100 word statement for his application for Platoon Leader Class he stated part of the reason he wants to join is because it is a family tradition with his father, grandfather and great uncle serving in our Corps as well,” said Capt. Nathan Harmon.

Harmon, an officer selection officer, is part of Recruiting Station Detroit’s Officer Selection Team in Ann Arbor, who helps officer candidates choose from one of several paths to earn their commission.

“He desires to be involved in Marine Corps related activities so much that he has volunteered to take on Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps related duties even though he is not on scholarship,” said Harmon.

Zarzycki was selected to attend the Platoon Leaders Class, which is just one of the paths that can lead to commissioning as an officer in the Marine Corps. For college freshmen and sophomores, PLC consists of two six-week training sessions taken after the freshman and junior school years. As a junior, PLC consists of one 10-week training session taken between the junior and senior year.

Zarzycki applied for PLC on Sept. 27 2011, and was selected during October 2011 and attended PLC juniors summer 2012.

“Joe is a candidate that has already shown me that he has the potential to become a phenomenal Marine officer,” said Harmon.

When asked how he handled training, Zarzycki describes the challenges he faced.

“I loved the training, but definitely the most challenging part was the emotional aspect,” he said. “It really helps having a strong family support. No matter where I am they are always going to be there to support me.”

Zarzychi will attend senior PLC at Quantico, Va., May 26, 2014.

“He will probably be a candidate that is able to help others out,” said Harmon. “I anticipate it being a character building event for him for sure.”

After completing his second session of training he will return to EMU to complete his studies. In April 2015, Zarzycki will graduate with his bachelor’s degree, which will officially appoint him as a Marine Corps Officer.

After earning his commission, Zarzycki will attend The Basic School in Quantico, Va., as a second lieutenant. The six-month program builds on the skills learned as an officer candidate to lead Marines.


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