Meet Captain Tai Nguyen

Competence + character = good leadership

By J.M. Simpson on January 11, 2023

Imagine living in an apartment with no furniture other than a single twin bed and several plastic chairs to sit on.

Captain Tai Nguyen does not have to imagine any of this; he lived it.

"I distinctively remember folding blankets multiple times to lay out in the living room so that we could have a softer area to sit," recalls the commander of Apache Company, 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team.

"Cable TV channels were a luxury, and I spent many holidays and birthdays receiving nothing."

Of Vietnamese heritage, Nguyen came to this country in 1996 after spending the first four years of his life in a refugee camp in Malaysia. He grew up in Roy, Utah. 

While he faced the challenges of poverty and a first-generation American, Nguyen overcame them by focusing on his education and work. "I did well in primary and secondary school because I believed education to be the most direct means to uplift myself in the United States," he continued.

One of the lessons Nguyen learned from his teachers was one of optimism, that people are generally good, and that there are many ways to serve through community service, social service or the military.

The day after he graduated from high school in 2011, Nguyen enlisted in the Utah Army National Guard. With and through the guidance of a senior non-commissioned officer who saw his potential and enrolled him in the Simultaneous Membership Program (SMP) to provide leadership opportunities, Nguyen joined the Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) at Weber State University.

"He knew a lot about me and was authentic in his compassion and sympathy for my life's situation," explained Nguyen, "and he steered me toward ROTC and earning my commission as an officer."

As an officer and company commander, Nguyen believes that competence and character lead to trust among the soldiers he is responsible for.

"Having some experience from the perspective of an enlisted soldier prior to becoming an officer enables that competence, along with the empathy, that is needed when making decisions based on values, ethics and morals," said Nguyen.

As a company commander, he is committed to the battalion's purpose, its soldiers and what it can do when called upon. Nguyen believes he is fortunate and feels grateful that the Army has entrusted him with the opportunity to lead.

"Every day in this profession, in this duty-position, there is a soldier waiting on you and expecting you to make decisions and lead. I believe this is extremely rewarding and purpose fulfilling," he said.

Nguyen credits his current battalion commander, Lt. Col. Jacob Cross, as having the greatest impact on his role as A Company's leader.

"He is a leader of few words; however, he has been able to motivate me, the organization and others."

In closing, he reminds his fellow soldiers that they should find a way to serve because "we are all collectively here together and no one individual has ever made great achievements on their own."