Called to Serve: Jace Angus back to rodeo after serving in Army
The city of Fallon, Nev., lies in the northwestern corner of the state, just an hour east of the bright lights of Reno. It’s an agricultural and ranching community that laid the groundwork for Jace Angus’ life, one that shaped him into a hero.
Angus, 35, is a fifth-generation saddle bronc rider. His whole life he was surrounded by the western way of life. He grew up with the dream of one day riding inside the yellow bucking chutes at the National Finals Rodeo, but there was always that feeling of serving for a greater purpose.
“I grew up in the sport of rodeo. My whole family was bronc riders all the way back into the 1920s,” said Angus. “I grew up in northern Nevada with my whole family being bronc riders and ranchers. But I always had the dream of being in the military growing up.”
The latter was always in the back of his mind as he began his rodeo career. A late bloomer, he didn’t start riding until he was 19 years old, and it wasn’t until 2012 that he began his journey in ProRodeo. Over the course of the next five years, he climbed on the back of 142 horses in the PRCA, most of those coming while competing at the circuit level.
During that time, Angus qualified for the PRCA First Frontier Circuit Finals Rodeo and became the First Frontier Circuit year-end champion and average winner in the saddle bronc riding in 2015. The success he was finding inside the arena was mounting, but he admits his heart was being pulled in a different direction.
“I rodeoed for a long time, while my friends were over there fighting for our country,” he said. “After a few didn’t make it back home I felt kind of guilty that I was playing for a living. That’s what made me really get after it and go serve.”
In 2017, at the age of 28 he made the sacrifice of a lifetime by enlisting into the United States Army. Angus’ eight-year contract required him to serve six years active duty and two years inactive in the reserves.
Early on during his time in the military he found the perfect recipe to balance competing in the sport he loved and serving his country. He won the Professional Armed Forces Rodeo Association World Championship in saddle bronc riding in 2018-2019, and 2022.
“Once I got to my first duty station in Colorado, I was able to rodeo a little bit,” Angus said. “I rodeoed in the Armed Forces Rodeo Association; I ended up winning my first world title doing that in my first year in the military.
“It was really cool to rodeo with a group of guys that were elite in other parts of society. They are all warriors and war fighters and soldiers. Then we get to go rodeo together and it kind of brings both worlds together. Most people probably wouldn’t truly get it until you’ve been there and done that.”
In March 2021, the 11 Bravo Infantryman was forced into action. Angus was deployed to the Horn of Africa, widely considered as one of the most violent and conflict-ridden regions in the world.
“I was overseas for nine months on the Horn of Africa,” Angus said. “It was a third world country and I’m still shocked at how people live over there in those areas. It was a pretty nasty place. But being in the military created a whole new discipline for me. There’s a new way to look at things. It’s almost like I came back stronger than I left.”
And it brought about a realization on what’s truly important to him in his life.
“It was like OK; I’ve knocked off all these goals. Now, it’s time to finish that last childhood dream of mine and make that come true,” he said. “Making the NFR and being dad are my two goals now. I kind of took rodeo for granted for a while.
“I never thought I didn’t appreciate it or appreciate it enough but when I went overseas there was that chance that you might not ever get to rodeo again. That gets in your mind as much as you don’t want to think about that stuff it just kind of happens. When we got back home it was like wow, I took this sport for granted. This is who I truly am.”
Angus returned from deployment last November and now calls Kiowa, Colo., home, for the time being. He is still serving out his contract, working with the Colorado Army National Guard. On top of that his return to the arena in 2023 couldn’t have gone much better.
Competing at the National Western Stock Show and Rodeo in Denver for the first time since 2014, he placed second in the first round and pocketed $3,198. He knows where he wants to be when December comes around and doesn’t plan on letting anything get in the way.
“I’m not going to let myself being 35 years old change what my goals are and that’s making the Finals. I feel more ready now than I’ve ever been,” Angus said. “It seems like everything is coming together to where now it’s my time.
“It’s almost like I had to endure some of those challenges that life throws at you, whether it’s good or extremely bad ones. Now you’re ready for it mentally. I have that support from family and friends that really helps. I have a team standing behind me and I’m ready to chase that dream. It’s time.”