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The student news site of Clayton High School.

The Globe

The student news site of Clayton High School.

The Globe

John Zlatic: the Soldier, the Detective, the Mentor

In honor of Veteran’s Day, November 11, The Globe profiles SRO John Zlatic.  Zlatic joined the military in 1993 and served as a linguist in the Special Forces, traveling throughout the Middle East. After leaving the military, he spent eight years as a detective in the Clayton Police Department before transferring to the high school. 

Student Resource Officer John Zlatic sits with a fellow soldier in the mountains of Afghanistan.  Zlatic was a linguist in the Special Forces during the 1990s. (Courtesy of John Zlatic)
Student Resource Officer John Zlatic sits with a fellow soldier in the mountains of Afghanistan. Zlatic was a linguist in the Special Forces during the 1990s. (Courtesy of John Zlatic)

 

Why did you decide to join the military?

I was actually in grad school, and I was driving to class when Desert Storm started. I felt like that would be better service to my country. But when I joined, by the time I went in, that war had already ended.

 

What exactly did being a linguist entail?

I speak Persian Farsi. Basically, any translating, interviewing, any reading of documents, and listening to communications is what I did for the team.

 

What kind of training did you have to go through?

Basic training, then I went to a year of language school, then I went to Advanced Individualized Training, which is where we did interrogations, interviewing, translating, stuff like that.  Then I went to airborne school where I learned how to jump out of airplanes, and then I went to Special Forces training.

 

What was it like jumping out of an airplane?

It was probably the scariest thing I’ve ever done.

 

Where did you serve?

All over in the states, but also Bahrain and the Middle East theatre.

 

Did you carry a weapon?

Several.

 

Was there any combat?

Sometimes, but minor stuff.

 

What was your best day while serving?

That’s a good question. Probably the first time I jumped out of a plane.

 

The worst day?

Watching an execution.

 

Who was doing the executing?

It was a tribal execution in Afghanistan in which we couldn’t intervene.

 

Were there a lot of days like that?

Well, for them, it’s normal.  There are severe consequences for behavior, and that’s just part of their culture.  To intervene in that would have been a bad situation.

 

What else did you witness?

Just seeing the poverty, people living in total destitution and also being under a government in which their best interests aren’t being identified. That was hard, watching people suffer needlessly.

 

When they called you back from inactive service after 9/11, what was your reaction?

I was willing to go, but it’s a lot harder once you start having a mortgage and a job and children. It’s a lot harder to make those kinds of commitments than when you’re young and single.

 

What would you say to CHS students considering the military?

It’s a great opportunity. I think if you value your freedom, and you believe in that freedom, and you want to help other people reach that freedom, then it’s an opportunity that you can’t find anywhere else.

 

Why did you decide to go into police work?

For me, it was natural. I was sitting on one of those mountaintops one time, and I was like, “I’m in Afghanistan, but I could be helping people at home,” which is what I decided to do.

(Courtesy of John Zlatic)
(Courtesy of John Zlatic)

There isn’t a whole lot of violent crime in Clayton, so what kinds of cases did you handle?

People always say that, but we joined up with the major case squad, so I’ve actually worked on quite a few homicides.

 

How did your experience as a detective compare to your experience in the military?

It’s great, but it’s the same kind of situation. It’s just upsetting, more so here. I worked on a case where these three young kids were shot in the face in their bed [points to the children’s pictures tacked to the wall], and you just don’t understand it. We almost have more terrible things happen in our own backyard than happen over there. You just can’t fathom why some people do some of the things they do.

 

How many cases did you handle?

Tons. There were times when I had 30 cases open on my desk at one time, so hundreds. Over eight years, probably into a thousand and something.

 

Is it anything like the TV shows?

You know what, it can be.  But the paperwork is just tremendous. For every hour of excitement, there’s probably eight to 10 hours of paperwork.

 

Why did you become a Student Resource Officer?

I worked a lot with kids, and I was pretty comfortable working with juvenile law, and I got really tired of working on cases in which the children were either dead or past the point of me actually helping.  So I decided I wanted to be a positive influence on kids’ lives while I could still help them.

 

Where do you see yourself in the future?

I’m getting my master’s in education, so I’m actually thinking about at some point teaching. It’s just the economy has kind of changed that right now. But hopefully teaching history. I’m going to be Mr. Harned’s replacement [laughs].

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    Phoebe RaileanuNov 9, 2011 at 11:13 pm

    I love Officer Zladic and I miss him and I felt safer at school knowing he was there! I hope he becomes a teacher so that when I come back and join the faculty, he will be there too!

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John Zlatic: the Soldier, the Detective, the Mentor