JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-MEDINA ANNEX —
The Joint Base San Antonio Airman Leadership School was named the “JBSA Rogers ALS” in honor of Staff Sgt. Cierra Rogers during a ceremony at JBSA-Lackland May 11.
Rogers was formerly assigned to the 67th and 688th Cyberspace Wings and graduated from the JBSA ALS. Rogers died May 20, 2016, from injuries sustained after saving a family from a burning building in the Songtan shopping district April 29, 2016, while assigned to Osan Air Base, South Korea.
“Rogers was a very eager and personable member of my team,” said Jay Simmons, a former supervisor of Rogers’ at the 688th CW. “She wanted to learn all aspects of her assigned duties. We had several great NCOs supervising the Airmen, and they always had positive and professional comments about her.”
The event surrounding her death was captured on a cellphone, showing several Airmen and local residents using blankets to catch a woman and her three children as they leapt from an apartment building window.
According to reports, while visiting a local beauty salon, Rogers smelled smoke and turned to see flames. Trapped with a woman and her three children, Rogers kicked out a window to escape, suffering a laceration to her leg. Unfortunately, a safe escape proved impossible as the alley was 37 feet below.
Rogers discovered another window with an adjacent metal cable that led to the ground. While descending, she lost her grip and fell 15 feet. She then gathered volunteers and blankets and pleaded with the woman to drop her children onto the blankets. Aside from shock, smoke inhalation and minor injuries, the family survived the incident.
“She did what she thought was the right thing to do,” said Brig. Gen. Heather Pringle, 502nd Air base Wing and JBSA commander, during the ceremony. “She did what each of us would have hoped we would have done. Not only was it the right thing to do, it was the selfless thing to do. Selfless service is one of those core values the Air Force has embodied … [and] she brought that value with her. It’s fitting this school is named after someone so selfless, so giving of her own talents to someone else.”
Rogers’ father, Larry Rogers, and mother, Jaqueline Greer, among other family members, were also present at the event.
“I’d like to thank everyone who made this naming possible. I know there was a lot of hard work involved in this,” said Larry, during the ceremony. “It is so easy to talk about other people … [but] it gets difficult to talk about your loved one, your daughter. Cierra would be really proud to know her name would be here, where every Airman who comes through the door has the ability to lead instilled in them. We know leadership can’t come from a textbook … at some point it requires sacrifice. It requires an act that you put others ahead of yourself. If you’re that leader, you’re going to make the right choice, which is what Cierra did.”
During the ceremony Rogers was posthumously awarded the Airman’s Medal. A sign bearing the school’s new name was also unveiled.
The process of renaming the schoolhouse began shortly after Rogers’ death and, after approval, the staff scheduled the ceremony to fall between the anniversary of the incident and her death. The staff wanted to rename the schoolhouse in Rogers’ honor, not only because she was an alumnus, but for everything she stood for.
“Her leadership philosophy was from Donald McGannon, ‘Leadership is an action, not a position,’” said Master Sgt. Andrew Post, JBSA Rogers ALS commandant. “What she did is proof she exemplified that philosophy. “We have these students for five weeks and teach them how to go out and lead,” he continued.
“We teach service before self, and we usually relate that to our service commitment, but it's also servitude to the people we protect and she was the embodiment of that.”
The ceremony concluded with memorial pushups honoring Rogers, fallen Airmen and the Air Force core values.