Capt. Jason Naaktgeboren quit college and joined the military because he detested school.
Today, he’s within weeks of earning his third college degree, with an eye toward a fourth – a PhD.
He sought an assignment to teach and to lead the ROTC program at Angelo State University, followed by a stint instructing young officers at Goodfellow Air Force Base. And recently, he interviewed for a teaching position at the Air Force Academy.
The son of a Navy reservist, Naaktgeboren calls the military “my calling.” He enlisted in the Navy after growing frustrated with college. He blames that on a bad decision to major in engineering; he hates math and science.
He left the Navy after seven years to again pursue a degree so he could become an officer. Wanting to work in military intelligence, he joined his college’s Air Force ROTC program. That experience – showing cadets a “brand new life” and helping them decide if the military is their calling – eventually led him to ASU.
Of all the remarkable achievements during his three years in San Angelo, perhaps his leadership of Angelo State’s ROTC program is most impressive. His commanding officer credits Naaktgeboren with revolutionizing the program’s curriculum and its recruiting.
Naaktgeboren systematically contacted high school guidance counselors to ensure they knew of ROTC opportunities at Angelo State. Once he got students on campus, they fell in love with it. The result was the largest recruiting class in more than five years.
That success led ASU’s admissions office to seek out his best practices for improving its student recruitment.
Naaktgeboren also rejuvenated a JROTC drill competition. Using connections to secure funding, and free food and lodging for competitors, he drew more than 600 students from 13 high schools to ASU.
Last year, Naaktgeboren was selected ASU’s advisor of the year.
“It’s the cadets who did the bulk of the legwork,” Naaktgeboren said, deflecting attention. “You plant a seed and you’d be amazed what they come up with.”
His achievements at Goodfellow are no less significant.
Leading four instructors who teach more than 500 intelligence students annually, Naaktgeboren revised 144 hours of classroom work. His tutoring of struggling students is estimated to have saved the Air Force more than $130,000.
Naaktgeboren describes his leadership as “situational.” Sometimes that means “followership,” he said.
“You can’t be a good leader without being a good follower,” he said. “Not one single person can get a team from point A to point B. It’s an interesting balancing act.”
In December, he’ll earn his second master’s degree with honors. On top of all that, he has volunteered more than 450 hours with local organizations.
He admits his desire to serve is aided by being a “geo-bachelor;” his wife and daughter are in Nevada as he fulfills his military commitments.
“There’s no rush to get home at the end of the day,” Naaktgeboren said. “And at the end of the day, what’s going to make me feel better? Watching TV? Or knowing I made a difference?”