Baraboo-based recruiter recognized as one of U.S. Army’s top 13

February 7, 2019

A staff sergeant working in Baraboo earned recognition this week as one of the U.S. Army’s top recruiters.

“I feel grateful,” Johnathon Hagen said of the honor. “It’s definitely a proud moment in my career — probably one of the greatest things I’ve achieved yet.”

Hagen, 27, moved to Portage in June 2017 to begin his work at the Army recruiting station on Linn Street in Baraboo. Between October and December last year, he recruited 14 people, which puts him among the best in the north central region, according to a U.S. Army Recruiting Command Public Affairs news release.

He was nominated by his brigade for recognition, said Media Relations Chief Lisa Ferguson. For the honor, Hagen and 12 others — two for each recruiting brigade and one for the Special Operations Recruiting Battalion — were flown to Washington, D.C., for a ceremony Monday at the Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes.

Ferguson said this is the first time recruiters have been honored for their work. After failing to meet its goals during the last fiscal year, Army Recruiting Command leaders put in place multiple new strategies to improve its numbers, including showing appreciation for what recruiters accomplish.

“(It was) definitely an eye-opener that people at all echelons are looking down at us and realizing the positive things that we’re doing,” Hagen said.

A Fennimore native, he said he joined the service in 2012 to do “something bigger” than himself and help pay for college. In the seven years since, he’s found a sense of purpose in life and decided to continue for at least another 13 years, until he can retire.

He served more than five years as an M1 armor crewman in Kansas and was deployed twice to Africa and southwest Asia.

After moving back to Wisconsin, Hagen decided to become involved in his new community. He contacted Baraboo High School wrestling coach Joe Bavlnka at the beginning of last season.

“As a head coach,” Bavlnka said, “you feel very fortunate when someone approaches you and just says, ‘Hey, I want to volunteer and help out,’ and he’s a quality person that can be a leader and knows how to handle kids correctly and obviously knows the sport very well, too. So it’s really just a win-win for everyone that’s involved.”

Bavlnka noted the students look up to Hagen. He said he wasn’t surprised when he heard about Hagen’s accomplishment.

“He’s just an outstanding guy,” Bavlnka said.

According to the news release, more than 9,000 recruiters helped the Army and Army Reserve hire more than 80,000 people in 2018.

Hagen said he uses face-to-face interactions, phone calls and social media to recruit individuals, most of whom are between the ages 17 and 24. What makes him so good at his job is transparency with applicants, he noted.

“I feel like letting the applicant know, you know, every opportunity that’s out there for them just lets them know that yes, I’m an Army recruiter, but I’m also just a regular person as well and I want to see them succeed,” Hagen said. “If the Army is what’s going to help them do that, then I’ll help them get on the right path. If it’s not, you know, I’ll still help them as much as I can.”

The 13 honorees toured the Pentagon on Monday, met with the U.S. House and Senate armed services committees and received a VIP tour Wednesday of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia.

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