USS WASP, At Sea --
“It just wouldn’t feel right if American kids were out there risking their limbs and lives in my native land while I’m just chilling and taking advantage of all the benefits,” said Gunnery Sgt. Emir Hadzic, a native of Bosnia, about what he thought about the Marine Corps as a young adult. “So I started looking into joining the American military.”
Hadzic, company gunnery sergeant with Company C, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, grew up hearing about the American spirit and American values from his parents. When he didn’t find what he was looking for after moving from Bosnia to Northern California, Hadzic joined the Marines.
“The more I started reading about the Marine Corps, the more I liked what it was,” Hadzic said. “The mentality of brotherhood, the mentality of get more done with less, the mentality to always be ready, to get it done at a moment’s notice – it’s something that really jived with the way I grew up.”
In 1996, he only enlisted for four years at first, but reenlisted when he realized “the boot fit.” When 9/11 happened, he decided to stay in until either there were no more wars to fight or he could retire, Hadzic said.
But family back home had difficulty understanding. Hadzic said civilians were “open game” in the Bosnian unrest and his family had bad experiences with men in uniform, leading to some misunderstanding of what he does. Hadzic spent several years dispelling misconceptions and, eventually, his family found pride in his service. His younger brother also joined the Marine Corps after he learned what it really stood for.
The Marine Corps was glad to have him and his brother. Employing people from different world views enhances mission accomplishment, said Capt. David B. Hagner, commanding officer of Company C, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment.
“If we all felt the exact same way, we would be very pigeon-holed and even closed-minded in our thinking,” said Hagner. “When you have a (group) of guys and girls who think differently and can bring a different perspective to it, you tend to come through with what is truly the best answer and truly the best solution because it’s appreciative of other’s opinions and other’s outlooks. It’s absolutely valuable.”
Hadzic said cultural awareness plays a major role in dealing with the local populace in places like Afghanistan. Besides coming from Bosnia, he travelled around Europe and to Southeast Asia. On deployment, he used his understanding of foreign cultures to his team’s advantage.
In Afghanistan, Hadzic served with an Afghan National Army mentoring team, which trains local forces. In this duty, he interacted with both Afghan soldiers and local civilians on a daily basis.
“As his performance shows, he was absolutely the right guy for the job,” said Hagner. “Once the locals found out his cultural background, they trusted him implicitly because they shared such things immediately.”
“Having been abroad to all these different countries and experiencing these different cultures did make it significantly easier for me to understand some of the grey areas that we were dealing with as they pertain to the local population in Afghanistan or Iraq and local security forces,” Hadzic said. “What we consider to be right and wrong might not apply the same way in different cultures.”
Hagner said when Marines like Hadzic serve in the same ranks as any other American, it’s easier to show the local population that the Marine Corps honestly understands, respects, and some members even share, their customs and religions.
“I think it’s a force multiplier,” said Hadzic. “We are America’s force in readiness, and American borders are better defended overseas. If we are going to maintain presence overseas, we must be culturally aware of those areas. Who better to enlighten us on those local customs and traditions than our own Marines that originate from there?”