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2nd Lt. Svyatoslav “Slav” Zenchenko runs a YouTube channel called “Simon the Zealot/Beyond the Crossroads” that is oriented towards prospective Officer Candidates as well as provides counsel and advice on Marine Corps life. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Preston L. Morris)

Photo by Lance Cpl. Preston L. Morris

What I’ve Learned: Svyatoslav “Slav” Zenchenko

1 Dec 2017 | Courtesy Story Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms

> I was born in Azerbaijan on July 19, 1988 (while it was still a part of the USSR). My grandfather was in the Red Army in WWII. Despite being a conscientious objector, he was assigned to transport equipment and was wounded during the war. He was relocated to an aid station in Baku, Azerbaijin, and stayed there after the war. My father met my mother while traveling with a church group in Siberia. He brought her back to Baku, where my siblings and I were born.

> After the fall of the Soviet Union, and due to an armed dispute between Azerbaijin and Armenia, my family arrived as refugees in Springfield, Mass. in 1992.

> I grew up in Springfield, then went to the University of Connecticut and worked at MassMutual before going to Officer Candidate School, but I’ll always think of Springfield as my hometown.

> The number one reason I joined the Corps was because my brother served from 2002 to 2006. He was my first salute after completing OCS. The other reason I joined the Marine Corps is because it is the most challenging of the branches.

> I chose to go the officer route because I had a college degree and I wanted the greater responsibility of leading Marines. Now that I’ve had the experience of leading young Marines, I can say that it supersedes all other reasons to becoming a Marine officer.

> When I went to OCS, I had a lot of bad habits. I didn’t realize the small particulars of military life and how by the numbers it is early on. In OCS, there’s nothing keeping you there. If they don’t like something about you or can prove that you’re insufficient in some way, then you can be sent home. It’s scary until it isn’t.

> I think leading your peers is something that is very difficult. There’s no obligation for them to listen to you. When you get everyone in a room who is the same rank, everyone thinks they have the best idea, so there’s the difficulty of trying to effectively lead your peers.

> I’m on a reserve contract. I chose to be a reservist because I wanted to bring the values and skills I’ve learned in the Marine Corps to the private sector. I do believe the Marine Corps provides us with a set of tools to be successful in the civilian world. If I can make the Marine Corps look good and pursue civilian goals, we all win.

> I have five things that I want to do to essentially flip Springfield. The city has fallen on hard times and I want to be a driving force in the city to help turn it around. I want to start a school; I want to start a basketball camp, (Springfield is the birthplace of basketball); I want to start a fatherhood initiative, because so many woes are tied to father absenteeism; I want to invest in real estate and flip houses to revitalize entire neighborhoods; and I want to start an entrepreneurial incubator, to mass people together with good ideas to which the city will benefit. I realize it’s a lot, and I don’t know how I’ll get it done, but you have one life and you might as well do something spectacular with it.

> My advice for fellow Marines is to rely on good principles and not to compromise them. The decisions you make based upon your principles or the lack thereof will have consequences, good or bad.

> I really believe that Marines can change the world like no other demographic. My expectations for Marines can be summed up by Richard Harding Davis who said of the Marines during the Spanish-American War that “the Marines have landed and the situation is well at hand.” That’s what people should think when a Marine is among them.

> I have a small video social media presence . It’s aimed towards OCS candidates, and has expanded more into “good counsel”, but I say one thing at the end of each video: “It is not about you.” When you actually get to stand in front of Marines, you realize that the most important function you can perform in their lives is to set them up for success: through empowerment, being a role model, providing them with opportunities to succeed, and if need be, through discipline. The last thing I say to whatever audience I’m addressing is an attempt to counteract what I feel are common Marine Corps vices: “stay hungry, stay humble, and keep out of trouble.”
Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms