Lt. Col. Aaron Barreda

Fort Pierce resident Lt. Col. Aaron Barreda trains many of tomorrow’s military leaders at West Point. He and his wife Tisha, a major and Army physician assistant, enjoy their off time at their home on North Hutchinson Island where they plan to stay after their retirement from the service. ED DRONDOSKI PHOTO


It’s not so far from California to North Hutchinson Island, especially for people who love the beach.

Along the way from Los Angeles to Fort Pierce, Lt. Col. Aaron Barreda had three tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan and met his future wife Tisha, an Army physician assistant. They currently divide their time between the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, where Barreda is chief of military training in the department of military instruction, and their new home on North Hutchinson Island.

Barreda grew up in Los Angeles and was accepted into the academy during his senior year at Loyola High School, starting basic training in the summer just before he turned 18. He was commissioned a second lieutenant in field artillery after graduating in 1999.

The historical service academy, about 50 miles north of New York City, is a national landmark where some of the greatest military minds have been trained and educated for more than 200 years.

After graduation, cadets are obligated to serve five years in the military, but Barreda points out the goal is “lifetime service to the nation.” After stints at Fort Carson in Colorado and global assignments in such places as Egypt and Honduras, the 9/11 attacks altered his duties.

Barreda was deployed to Iraq in 2003, 2005-6, and 2010-11. He also served in Afghanistan in 2012.

“Obviously, there are always difficult moments and a lot of times a fear of the unknown because you don’t know what you’re going to encounter,” Barreda recalls of his time in the war-torn areas.

His military decorations include the Bronze Star with two oak leaf clusters, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Iraq Campaign Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, the Meritorious Unit Award, the Valorous Unit Award, the Combat Action Badge, and the Parachutist Badge.

Based on his time of service and rank, Barreda was given other assignments during those years, including working with the interstate marshal’s service out of Washington, D.C. At Fort Riley in Kansas, he became a military trainer for transition teams going to Iraq and Afghanistan.

As destiny would have it, Barreda would meet the former Tisha Bridge in Iraq in 2010. She was assigned to a hospital that treated soldiers in the 1st Infantry Division. They started dating shortly afterward and were married in Fort Pierce on Dec. 20, 2011.

After closing on their house on North Hutchinson Island in early 2012, they were deployed to Afghanistan. “That was our honeymoon,” Barreda notes.

They were attracted to the area by Tisha’s parents, Charlie and Marcia Bridge, who were area snowbirds. Tisha’s daughter, Madison, 13, stays with the Bridges when Barreda is at West Point. The Barredas have rented a house in New Windsor, near the academy. They try to spend time in Fort Pierce at least every month and during holidays, as they wait for retirement in a little more than three years — when they intend to enjoy the island and its surroundings full time.

“We love the water,” Barreda says. That includes spending time on their 34-foot Four Winds Vista and a smaller Boston Whaler. “We enjoy the big boat, but wanted a smaller boat to get around the island.” They also enjoy kayaking.

Walking two blocks to the beach is something to look forward to when they are here and when the time comes to move here permanently. “Madison is kind of a beach baby,” Tisha says. The Barredas also like bringing along their dog, Corbin, whom they adopted at a PetSmart in Washington, D.C., during their water outings.

Tisha, 38, went to La Salle University in Philadelphia, training with the ROTC program. She was later commissioned a second lieutenant in Hawaii. She was a physician assistant at the University of Nebraska Medical Center and is stationed at Keller Community Hospital at West Point, where she is now a major. Her passion is dermatology where she would like to work following retirement from the military.

After nearly two decades of serving their country, the Barredas are looking forward to a new life on North Hutchinson Island. “You go to places like New York City and you think you like it,” Tisha says, “but then you come down here.”

Name: Lt. Col. Aaron D. Barreda
Age: 38
Occupation: Chief of military training in the department of military instruction U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
Background: Born and raised in Los Angeles, Calif.
Where I live: Fort Pierce and New Windsor, N.Y.
Education: Graduated from West Point, 1999.
Family: Wife Tisha, stepdaughter Madison, 13.
Hobbies: Boating, fishing, kayaking.
What inspires me: “I am in great awe of the next generation. I have respect for them.”
What I am proudest of: Helping to train some 4,400 cadets at West Point right now. “They don’t know where they will be going. In 20 to 30 years, some of them will be generals.”