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Poulsbo airman out on the front lines

BAGHDAD, IRAQ — Even before the World Trade Center towers collapsed on Sept. 11, 2001, Jarred Taylor knew his place was out on the front lines in the war on terror and not nestled in the peaceful surroundings of Little Norway.

Taylor, the son of Kent and Simone Taylor of Poulsbo, was recently recognized for his valorous action in the Sadr City neighborhood of Baghdad, Iraq by the British Royal Air Force.

In the press release issued by the RAF civilian affairs office, Taylor was mentioned because he “called for air support and immediately the Tornado GR4s responded. The JTAC quickly explained the critical situation and asked for a tactical demonstration to show the aircraft’s presence and overwhelming combat power.”

Those heroic actions saved the lives of an Iraqi police brigadier general and his men who were “surrounded and under intense fire from insurgents armed with AK-47 assault rifles and rocket propelled grenades,” the press release stated.

Afterward, the brigadier general “personally thanked the JTAC and the aircrew for saving his life,” the press released concluded.

Incidents like that are an everyday part of serving with the 82nd Airborne Division, based out of Fort Bragg, N.C., for Taylor and the rest of his Joint Tactical Air Controllers, who are assigned to different sectors of the war-torn country.

The dream

They are also the fulfillment of a lifelong dream for Taylor, who had no doubt about his career choice long before he entered North Kitsap High School.

“People that knew me growing up knew I was all about the military,” he said. “I had made it clear so many times that anything and eveything military fascinated me.”

Whether it was at the Poulsbo Junior High culture fair or a school project, Taylor said he focused his efforts on the military whenever an opportunity presented itself.

His love of the military was so strong, Taylor decided to forego the pomp and circumstance of his high school graduation and enrolled in the Peer Assisted Learning program at Olympic College to get his high school diploma.

“I was very interested in the U.S. Army Rangers, but my dad, who was stationed at Bangor and (still active duty Navy 28 years now), said he would not sign me over unless it was the USAF (United States Air Force), because he knew they took good care of their airmen,” he said. “I was only 17, so my father had to sign for me.”

When he signed his Air Force contract, Taylor said he was designated as an F-15e mechanic instead of a combat soldier.

“I was not very happy with this decision, but it was all they had to offer at the time,” he said. “I left for basic training at 17 years old, while all my friends were in their senior year of high school, enjoying football games and going to prom I was getting ready to start an adventure of a lifetime.”

At basic training, Taylor’s dreams of being something other than an aircraft mechanic started to become true as a tactical air controller addressed his unit.

“He told stories of overwatching airfields in the first Gulf War and calling in the precision airstrikes that won that war so quickly,” Taylor said. “I immediately jumped up and down knowing that was what I needed to do.”

Becoming

an operator

Making that dream a reality required besting about 130 other airmen in one of three spots available for the course, he said. Roughly 120-130 hopefuls came out to the selection, competing for a few slots just to get a chance to take the course.

“When they saw how much I wanted this, I was their No. 1 pick,” Taylor recalled.

Once the course started, Taylor said it was a rude awakening for him and the 35 other airmen selected for the training, but he made it through with flying colors.

“I graduated at the top end of the class, from PT scores, test scores and field tactics ability I received an Airborne School slot and the assignment of Fort Bragg, the best of the TACP units,” he said.

At Airborne School, which is taught by the Army at Fort Benning, Ga., Taylor was once again the youngest in his class, which added to the rigors of the intense parachuting school.

“I was given the duty of ‘keeper of the wings,’ which meant I carried the company set of wings through the entire school,” he said. “This was just an excuse for extra harassment.”

That honor was rewarded at his graduation when his Airborne wings were pinned on by a three-star Army general for being one of the “few keepers that never lost the wings,” he said.

Saturday: Taylor takes a closer look at America’s sacrifices.

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