By Capt. Robert TaylorOctober 9, 2018
BOISE, Idaho - Lt. Col. Aaron Jarnagin joined the Idaho Army National Guard in 2000 because he wanted to serve his community and be a good example to the students he was teaching. Additionally, the National Guard was a good fit for him due to the summer training schedule.
Today he is the principal of Skyline High School in Idaho Falls, Idaho and the commander of the 116th Cavalry Brigade Combat Team 1-148th Field Artillery Regiment. He leads more than 70 faculty members, 1300 students and 550 Soldiers, which can feel daunting at times.
"You have to prioritize your time," Jarnagin said. "Some weeks are more Guard heavy than others."
Jarnagin is the only traditional Soldier in the Idaho Army National Guard that commands a battalion and he has been the principal of Skyline High School for the past four years. The overlap between his civilian and military careers has taught him to manage faculty, student and Soldier expectations as well as how to handle very delicate situations while holding people accountable.
However, he learned early in his career to shift mentally between being an Army officer and a high school principal.
"I can't take my rank into school with me," he said. "I always have to shift my brain between the two careers. It's no different than shifting between being a dad, a husband, a church leader, based on the circumstances."
Jarnagin's favorite part of being a battalion commander is interacting with his Soldiers and seeing them succeed while overcoming challenges. This is something he gets to do with his students as well.
"It's all about the people," Jarnagin said. "I try to build relationships with the faculty and teachers. It's the same in the military. It's all about treating people correctly so you can solve problems and be successful as a unit or group."
To make sure his students know about the benefits of serving in the military, Jarnagin maintains an open door policy for recruiters from any military branch to visit his school. When he was making up his own mind, he met with recruiters from all branches of the military and chose to enlist into the Idaho Army National Guard because he wanted to serve locally.
He was 27 at the time and already had a master's degree and two kids. He earned his commission as a field artillery officer two years later and a second master's degree in 2005. He encourages young people to take advantage of the opportunities that the National Guard offers.
"I think, 'What would it be like if I had join at 17?'" Jarnagin said. "Not that you have to join the military that young, but there are some good opportunities in the military for everyone."
Jarnagin has deployed to Iraq twice with the 116th Cavalry Brigade Combat Team. During the brigade's 2004-2005 deployment to Kirkuk, Iraq, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom III, Jarnagin served as a fire support officer. His main responsibilities included reconstruction project management and linguist management.
He was the commander of Bravo Battery, headquartered in Rexburg, during the brigade's deployment to Iraq in support of Operation New Dawn in 2010-2011.
He has served as the 1-148th FAR commander since March and was promoted to lieutenant colonel in July.