Managing a Career
Gunnery Sergeant Earns Bachelor’s and Commission After Graduation
A braided loop and the chance to lasso a roping dummy didn’t appeal to Zachary Jensen as a boy on his grandparent’s Deer Park acreage.
Their Eastern Washington rodeo and cattle background was not enough to cinch Jensen into a life in a saddle, but his grandparents’ discipline, and their philosophy of hard work and grit stuck.
“They encouraged me to work hard and be the best I can be,” said Jensen, who is simultaneously vying for a commission as a second lieutenant in U of I’s Navy ROTC program while completing a degree in management and human resources in the College of Business and Economics. Jensen chose his major because it complemented the future he sees for himself as a Marine Corps officer. He graduates Fall ’23.
Since his time at Ferris High School in Spokane, where he earned a trip to the Washington state high school wrestling tournament — an achievement he chalks up to the discipline he inherited from his grandparents because he didn’t start wrestling until his freshman year — Jensen’s determination has been rewarded.
Following his grandmother’s advice to always do your best, Jensen spent two years in the work force — first at a restaurant and then with UPS — before enlisting.
He quickly learned that his no-nonsense upbringing and family philosophy had a home in the Corps.
“My grandmother especially would always tell me to work through difficulties and to keep going regardless of the pain or difficulty,” Jensen recalls. “That was her philosophy, and it had a huge impact on me.”
He earned meritorious commendations in the Marine Corps that moored him as a degree-seeking officer candidate on the Palouse.
“My wife, Tashina, and I decided University of Idaho would be a good choice so that our children could be close to family during this unique opportunity in my career,” he said. “We also love the idea of living in a small town and having closer relationships with our neighbors.”
One of my key takeaways as an NROTC student has been to recognize and appreciate the talent and capabilities of underclassmen.Zach Jensen, Gunnery Sergeant, NROTC
He was promoted to Gunnery Sergeant at U of I after serving 10 years in the Corps and has completed Officer Candidate School, a requirement that prepares entrants to be Marine officers.
“I’ve been really impressed with the variety of classes offered here at the university,” he said. “The teachers have really impressed me with the amount of support they provide to their students.”
Jensen has served at the Pentagon, on the staff of the Inspector General of the Marine Corps team, graduated from SERE school — it stands for survival, evasion, resistance, escape— and was an administrative specialist in a raider battalion, one of the Marines’ special operations forces.
After graduation he will learn to be a provisional rifle platoon commander first, a six -month training program, before heading to his next assignment.
“His inclination to help people and his prior successful roles in human resources influenced the degree he will earn at U of I,” said Capt. Amish Smith, of U of I’s NROTC. “Those nitty-gritty administrative tasks that others find tedious, are rewarding to him.”
In addition to being close to his Spokane family, Jensen said U of I’s uniqueness, its serene location surrounded by agricultural fields and mountains, and the community environment of Moscow, enhanced his overall experience.
“One of my key takeaways as an NROTC student has been to recognize and appreciate the talent and capabilities of underclassmen,” he said. “The students in my classes are outgoing and engaging and all willing to help each other out.”