Captain America of the 157th Air Refueling Wing

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Elliot Boutin
  • 157th Air Refueling Wing

Work ethic and attitude have earned one Airman in the New Hampshire Air National Guard the reputation of Captain America.

Staff Sgt. Jared Hakala, a maintenance operations controller and KC-46 crew chief with the 157th Maintenance Group, shines both on and off duty. He has maintained a 3.98 GPA in the University of New Hampshire’s mechanical engineering program, stood out as an exceptional leader in the UNH ROTC program, and exceeded expectations in the control center.

“His ROTC commander reached out and told me about all of the things he was doing in the ROTC program,” said Chief Master Sgt. Kayla Carpenter, senior enlisted leader of the 157th Maintenance Operations Flight. “It was incredible and he's such a humble person you’ll never know about what he has done.”

Hakala enlisted into MOC in 2020 and hit the ground running. As the central hub of the maintenance group, MOC Airmen are responsible for tracking emergency actions on the flight line and are required to have maintenance experience. With only three months on-the-job training as a crew chief and less than a year on drill status, his supervision was amazed at how well he did.

“You wouldn’t be able to tell he’s a drill-status Guardsman, he just knocks it out of the park,” said Staff Sgt. Ediar Taveras, a MOC Controller at the 157th MOF and one of the supervisors who trained Hakala. “As a controller, every day is a different day. You could get a call about anything and you need to be ready for it. I’ve always felt like he is ready and lives up to his reputation.”

Hakala also stood out from day one in the ROTC program. After applying as a junior, he was selected by his cadre to be the commander of other cadets for a semester. He took the challenge head on.

“That role was the first one where I felt like I was continually missing the mark,” Hakala said. “But then you learn that it's all a part of the process and you have to keep working on your own goals and leadership style.”

His motivation impressed Maj. Michael Petrin, current commander of the 157th Security Forces Squadron and a seasoned commander who was brought to active duty as a cadre at UNH to teach the next generation of officers.

“Hakala stepped into a leadership role during a challenging time within the cadet group,” said Petrin. “His positive attitude and his exceptional work in academics served as a role model for junior cadets to emulate and aspire to.”

In the summer of 2023, Hakala was selected to participate in a national AFROTC field training exercise at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, to continue in the Professional Officer Course where cadets are graded on their leadership and Air Force competencies. Hakala ranked sixth out of 397 cadets in his encampment and took home multiple accolades including distinguished graduate, warrior spirit, and fitness awards.

“Every award he was eligible for at that exercise, he won it,” said Carpenter. “The responsibilities he has in MOC, keeping up a stellar GPA in mechanical engineering as a senior, on top of ROTC, he’s really like Captain America.”

According to Hakala, a formative moment in his life that helped shape his attitude towards work came at age 19 while building a cabin with his father.

“We’ve always been close but that experience strengthened our bond," he said. “I learned staying present and experiencing where you are at in life, valuing simplicity, putting your head down and taking things step by step, you’ll eventually conquer the hill. Living in that camper and building with my dad was one of the best experiences of my life.”

The ANG has given Hakala the opportunity to step out of Keene, NH, to avoid student loans and to find direction and a purpose

“Originally I joined just for the college money,” he said. “But after going through training and having the personal relationships, experiencing the culture and living the lifestyle, I realized I wanted to continue and make it a career.”

Hakala said the Air Force aligns to his personal values and he sees himself staying in the service for the long haul.

“I’m in it for the adventure, for sure; that's also why I joined,” he laughed. “The goal is to be selected to be a pilot. I’m volunteering for the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Training Program but, no matter what, I want to be flying for the Air Force in the next five years. I’ll be rolling with the punches.”

Hakala has positively impacted everyone he has worked with. His future looks bright in the eyes of the Air Force and beyond.

“He is one of those Airmen you can never forget,” said Carpenter. “It really is amazing being able to lead and serve with him and it’s insane what he has been able to accomplish at such a young age.”