Miguel Aguilar, from Dexter, NM, is the Adjutant General of the New Mexico National Guard, and is responsible for providing the State of New Mexico and the U.S. with a ready force of citizen soldiers and airmen. He has been awarded 14 decorations and badges, including a Bronze Star Medal, a Meritorious Service Medal and a Combat Action Badge.
I was surprised how much Aguilar really opened up to me during our brief visit. It’s inspiring to see an esteemed military leader have such integrity and willingness to be real, vulnerable, and sincere. Vulnerability drives connection, and that seems to be one of the cruxes of Aguilar’s mission as the Adjutant General: to promote not just the physical well-being of the National Guard and New Mexicans, but to promote their emotional, mental, and spiritual health as well. Needless to say, we got along well.
THE GENERAL’S TIP FOR STARTING YOUR DAY RIGHT
“There’s nothing better than meeting the day with a run or a bike ride. Really relaxing.”
INTROVERTS CAN BE LEADERS TOO
We all have responsibilities that challenge us in different ways, but being the Adjutant General of the NM National Guard has to be an especially tough one - and I was so surprised to learn that Aguilar is actually an introvert. A lot of people assume that people in high leadership roles must be very extroverted, but that’s not necessarily the case. I asked Aguilar how he deals with the stresses of the job as an introvert, he said: “I’m a fairly introverted person by nature. Introverts and extroverts can all be leaders, but introverts just need more time to charge the batteries after so many continuous social interactions. The job is so demanding time-wise and travel-wise, when I get a chance to spend time with family I take it. It’s my way of recharging the batteries.”
THE LEGACY OF THE FATHER
“I was planning on going to military school - but you have to pay $1000, and I didn’t have $1000. So my father took out a loan to pay for my school. That’s something you can never repay. Its importance went beyond the dollar amount. My family has since established a scholarship fund for Dexter High School students, and we give out $4000 - which puts someone through all four years. If I can help one family not have to take out a loan to do what I did, I will. That was my Dad’s legacy, and I’ll never forget it.” This story really struck me. My own father had recently passed away, and talking with Aguilar about this really made me wish I had spent more time with my father, asked him more life lessons. I was deeply moved by what Aguilar told me next: “I can count on my hand the number of times I remember my Dad telling me he loved me. Because of that I make it a point to tell my kids that I love ‘em continuously.”
PEOPLE NEED TO LET OTHERS KNOW WHEN THEY’RE HURTING
“Even in what I do now I try to create a culture, a caring culture, where we express our gratitude and thanks to those around us… And I think we’re getting better. The Guard is really changing how we address mental health issues, and having those conversations. A lot of it is understanding that we’re all humans and all have the same feelings.” It was so fascinating to realize how much the Guard and our show are aligned by philosophy and mission. We all need to be able to tell others when we’re hurting, and Aguilar is really pushing for this in the Guard.
WHAT THE WORLD NEEDS TO HEAR RIGHT NOW
“We’re all human. We all have challenges. We have to spend more time communicating with each other, sharing our ideas, and being respectful.”
Aguilar and I both share a favorite author: Simon Sinek