Looking forward

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Zach Heimbuch
  • 17 Training Wing Public Affairs

“I knew from day one I wanted to go the full 20 years,” said Juan Carlos Jara, Angelo State University Air Force ROTC cadet. “I graduated high school and knew I needed to do something that was going to pay off in the long run.”

Jara is a Columbia native, who arrived in the United States in 2012 at 16. He enlisted in the U.S. Air Force 4 years later, earning his U.S. Citizenship.

“Getting my citizenship opened so many doors,” said Jara. “But when you enlist as a non-U.S. Citizen, the jobs offered are very limited.”

Because of these limitations, Jara enlisted under a general contract; then, during his time in Basic Military Training, he was assigned to the occupation of Dental Assistant. When he graduated, he was stationed at Goodfellow Air Force Base, where he carried out his duties for more than five years.

“When I first joined, my supervisor pushed me to take college courses,” said Jara. “She said I would need to pursue education if I wanted to promote, so I did. Then, when I was deployed in 2019, one of my friends applied for the commissioning program. So that stayed in my head while I was taking my college courses.”

Upon returning from the deployment, Jara began researching commissioning programs available to enlisted members. Through his research, Jara discovered the Airman Scholarship Program, an initiative offering Airmen the opportunity to earn a commission while completing their bachelor's degree in various fields. 

“I honestly didn't know what ROTC was at the beginning,” said Jara. “Now, looking back after two years in the program, I’d say it's one of the least complicated ways to commission.” 

While putting his goal of a 20-year Air Force career on pause to pursue further education and involvement in the ROTC program at Angelo State University, Jara continues his involvement at Goodfellow by working at the Mathis Fitness Center.

“When I knew I was going to separate, I talked to the fitness director at the time and explained I was going to start college and needed a job,” said Jara. “He offered to help with my resume and constantly looked out for me.”

During his downtime while working at the fitness center, Jara is able to complete his classwork. 

“You always have to set your focus and know what you want if you want to achieve your goals,” said Jara. “I know I need to maintain my academics if I want to commission through ROTC. To succeed in ROTC now, I need to succeed as cadet wing commander. I need to succeed now because I want to be the best officer I can be when I do commission.”

When looking forward to what type of leader he wants to be, Jara said, “I don't want people to miss how I lead when I'm gone, I want the people I work with to miss me for the type of person I am.”