How many men are willing to give up a business career, work as a cop on drug-infested streets, enlist in the Army, spend 18 months learning a Middle Eastern language and be willing at a moment’s notice to fly into terrorist-infested lands to interrogate the enemy — or drive his wife to a local hospital for the birth of their first child? We know of at least one. And we’re pretty darn impressed. Maybe inspired is a better word.
Aaron, whose last name is being withheld for security reasons, is a Buffalo Jackson fan we’re humbled to know. He’s a Human Intelligence Collector for the U.S. Army. His job is to gather information through human interrogation or decoding documents and then prepare intelligence reports for other soldiers. Oh, and he does it in Farsi, a primary language in Iran and Afghanistan. But here’s the amazing part: He sees this terrorist-busting job as just one more step on his journey to become a public servant for communities in the U.S. He wants to eventually work for a federal agency that cleans illegal drugs off American streets.
Aaron’s wife is 10 days past her due date with a new baby girl as I write this. But he still took time to share his heart with us at Buffalo Jackson. For that, and all the values he upholds, we’re honored.
What prompted you to enter law enforcement and then active duty military?
In college, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. And when you don’t know — my dad worked on the New York Stock Exchange — so I said I’ll do something like that. I was a marketing major, really enjoyed it, but after I graduated I got a job and thought it wasn’t for me. A great job, but kind of slow. I wanted to do something else.
A family friend worked for the Secret Service. I talked to him and got interested in the aspect of law enforcement. I decided to pursue it but didn’t know how. You can’t just get a job with the Secret Service or FBI or CIA with a marketing degree. So I decided to become a police officer in Washington, D.C. and after a couple years thought I could transfer over. I loved it. I loved every aspect of community police work. I worked in the roughest neighborhoods. I enjoyed cleaning up the street, moving into an area, seeing drug dealers on the corner, and talking to homeowners about what we could do. We were catching drug dealers, doing hand-to-hand transactions and putting them in jail.
It was exciting. But I wanted to do it on a larger scale. These were low-level guys. I wanted to go after the big guys. To do that, you’ve gotta be in the DEA or Homeland Security. I needed more on my resume to set me apart, and the military does that. The language training I knew would set me apart. There’s no greater honor to say you served your country. That’s something I want to show my daughter. It’s a huge thing for my family.
How difficult was learning a new language?
It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It was nonstop. The way they teach you is completely different than Rosetta Stone or your high school French class. The Army teaches you with all native speakers. People from Iran were my teachers. They teach you from 8 in the morning until 5 at night. It is complete Farsi training, from Day One they speak in Farsi. Then you have two or three hours of homework every night. You’re translating, speaking, deciphering passages. It’s really a nonstop program. Almost every night you have 100 words to learn. It was one of the most gratifying things to do. But you look back and realize how difficult and hard it was to do. Intense.
Do you spend much time overseas?
Right now I’m stateside. Because of the withdrawal from Afghanistan, I’ve been in a slower cycle right now. We’re training for what happens next. There’s a lot going on in the world. At any moment we could be deployed.
What’s your dream job?
Federal law enforcement. Joining the DEA would be a dream job for me. Being able to work with other agencies to rid the streets of drugs. It’s a huge problem in America. I speak Farsi now, and there’s a huge trade coming into Mexico from Iran and then into the United States. I can one day use my skills to help shut that down.
There aren’t a lot of men with those kind of ambitions. Where does that come from in you?
The desire to work hard, I know that’s different, but that comes from my father. He always challenged all of us, I have three older brothers, to work hard at whatever you do. Do your best every day. It doesn’t matter if you’re cleaning toilets, you work as hard as you can. When I decided to pursue law enforcement, I took that and tried to be the best I could be. Pursue what you do to the highest level. I loved the job and I wanted to pursue it to the highest level I can. It comes down to wanting to make a difference — work a job that’s bigger than yourself. Pursue something more than just a paycheck.
Do you have a role model?
I would say my dad. Not because I’m following his footsteps on the stock market, but he showed me what it means to be a man, to be a father and to be a husband. If I can do half of what he did, I’ll be successful.
You’re about to have a daughter. What legacy do you want her to see in you?
I really want her to see a life of service, whether its a big stage with the federal government or working for our church. Live life for others. Don’t be selfish. I want her to see me work hard in everything I do, but to do it selflessly. That’s an uncommon trait in today’s society — to be selfless. That ethic is really important. That’s why I do what I do. You’re serving a greater purpose than doing your own thing.