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NEWS | Feb. 2, 2024

Mesa native recovers from college setback to fulfill Army dream

By Alun Thomas 653rd Regional Support Group

It’s the eve of the 653rd Regional Support Group’s Best Warrior Competition and Pvt. Jared Haggard awaits anxiously, ready to prove his mettle and worth as the top enlisted Soldier in the brigade.

Getting to this point wasn’t easy – Haggard went through the pain of losing his college scholarship and faced an uncertain future. Luckily, he was able to rebound and achieve one of his childhood dreams, becoming a Soldier.

Haggard, chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear specialist, 208th Transportation Company, 653rd RSG, recalled his upbringing in his native Mesa, where he excelled at high school football and attracted the attention of numerous colleges.

“I attended Dobson High School where I was a four-year varsity linebacker. I had Division One scholarship offers and I chose Arizona Christian University,” Haggard explained. “Then in my first month I had a pectoral tear and lost my scholarship.”

At the age of 19 Haggard found himself having to start from scratch again, his football aspirations dashed.

“It took me a year to recover from the injury … I was in a sling and doing a lot of physical training to get my conditioning back,” he said. “Then my grandfather in Kentucky died so I moved into his place and looked after it until his affairs were settled.”

Haggard lived in Kentucky for a year, working warehouse jobs and trying to get back on his feet performing physically demanding work. Eventually, Haggard moved back to Arizona where he knew he had to make a change.

“I had gotten married and had a daughter who been born breech. This caused hip dysplasia and she needed surgery,” Haggard said. “I knew this was the right time for me to join the Army to help with the surgery, and also because I’d dreamed of it since I was a kid.”

Haggard said both his grandfathers and several of his uncles had served, giving him an emphasis to continue the tradition.

“My body had recovered enough where I was physically able to enlist and put it through that kind of stress,” he said. “I decided with my wife to join the Army Reserve, so we didn’t have to uproot our entire lives.”

Haggard joined the Army through the Mesa Recruiting Station and left for Basic Combat Training at Fort Sill, Okla., in May of 2023, an experience he relished.

“I absolutely loved it … being able to display leadership qualities and seeing how the Army is run was enjoyable for me,” Haggard said. “It taught me how to do things the right way as a leader and lead by example.”

Haggard went on to complete his Advanced Individual Training at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., and returned home to Mesa, where he continues his Army Reserve career and civilian job.

“Right now, I work for Anheuser Busch as a truck loader, but I'm certainly interested in going active duty and making the Army a career,” he added. “I want to get some leadership experience under my belt and become a noncommissioned officer.”

For Haggard it’s one step at a time, and hopefully he said he’ll win the Best Warrior Competition and add another notch to the early stages of his Army Reserve Career.

“I’m looking forward to trying to win the title and represent my unit proudly,” Haggard said. "Then it's on to the next step."