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Vlasta Zekulic

Corps Grad ’02

Vlasta ZekulicI was born and raised in Split, Croatia, and sent to The Citadel by the Croatian Ministry of Defense in 1998. I graduated in 2002 with a degree in computer science and with a minor in management information systems. After that, I was commissioned to Croatian Infantry. Since my return, I have commanded at platoon, company and battalion levels, as well as worked on the general staff as the executive officer to the Croatian Deputy Chief of Staff. During this time, I also completed two tours in Afghanistan. Currently, I work at NATO Allied Command Transformation as a strategic plans and policy officer, stationed in Norfolk, Virginia. Since graduation, I have also continued with my academic education, achieving a master’s and Ph.D. in international relations and national security from the University of Zagreb in 2012.

What is your favorite memory from The Citadel?
My favorite memory from The Citadel is the first day I commanded the first battalion at the Friday parade. I was so nervous! As I marched out to the beat of the bagpiper’s drums, front and center, all alone, followed by battalion staff and four companies massing more than 400 cadets, a thousand doubts raced through my head. Is my gear shiny and tight enough? Am I in step? Will I turn at the right spot? Will I be able to sound off loud enough to be heard across the parade deck? What if I miss an order? In short – Will I be good enough to justify being elected as one of the leaders of this amazing, old, proud and merciless institution? I could feel a hundred eyes on me, but most reassuring, warm and friendly were those of my classmates in front of me; they believed in me. Soon afterwards I heard the regimental commander calling us to attention. The moment came. I yelled out, fearful my voice would be high pitched, broken and girly, triggering laughter and the mockery of spectators and cadets, but it came deep, loud and strong. And there I was—a 23-year-old Croatian girl repeating the same orders in the same old Southern drawl as The Citadel commanders had for 160 years. The Battalion moved as one, reflecting perfect synergy and strength. I raised my sword and turned, my face was serious but my heart was beaming. Although symbolic, at that very moment at the parade deck I knew I was proven worthy to be The Citadel commander. Nothing in my life will be as hard as achieving that.

How do you think your experience at The Citadel got you to where you are now?
I was a Croatian military cadet sent to The Citadel because at the time we had no military academy/college of our own. Therefore, successful graduation and completion of my bachelor degree and military training technically launched my career. I do believe, though, that what made my career so successful were the values, perseverance and less formalized, but so much more valuable lessons, I received through everyday cadet life at The Citadel. The Citadel taught me determination and persistence. Having it hard for a month or three is easy; but maintaining will, energy and resolve to endure for four years requires a whole different mind-set. The principles of time, people and resource management that The Citadel taught me, juggling too many obligations and excelling in all of them, stayed with me for good. That made me a fighter.

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