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NEWS | May 27, 2014

Airman's sky-high re-enlistment ends with a flourish

By Robert Goetz Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph Public Affairs

An Airman assigned to the 902nd Security Forces Squadron at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph literally soared for his recent re-enlistment ceremony before spectacularly concluding the event by tapping his inner daredevil.

Tech. Sgt. Taylor Rogal, 902nd SFS NCO in charge of security forces training, traveled with 10 fellow security forces members to an airpark southeast of San Marcos, Texas, the morning of May 15, ascended 6,000 feet in a Super Twin Otter twin-engine aircraft and recited his re-enlistment oath.

Then the fun really began.

In tandem with an instructor from the Skydive San Marcos skydiving facility, Rogal proceeded to lunge out of the aircraft and begin perhaps the most exhilarating five-minute stretch of his life. His fellow Airmen followed his lead, one after the other.

"Skydiving has always been a bucket-list item of mine, and I thought it would be memorable to skydive from 10,000 feet with 10 of my fellow defenders," Rogal said. "There aren't too many people who get the privilege of wearing this uniform, and it was a reminder that I truly am blessed to serve our great country and with the men and women of our great Air Force."

Rogal's unique re-enlistment ceremony continued a trend set by Maj. Gregory Bodenstein, 902nd SFS commander, when he joined the squadron two years ago.

"I try to place a special emphasis on re-enlistments so we can take a pause to see the significance of the event," he said. "One way to do that is to have it at a special venue, not just a conference room."

Some of the squadron's re-enlistment ceremonies have taken place at the Alamo, the Taj Mahal and the Missing Man Monument, Bodenstein said.

"A historic site emphasizes that it's an important milestone in a person's career, and it makes it memorable," he said.

Rogal's choice ensured that his second re-enlistment would be "especially memorable," but he wasn't sure if Bodenstein would sanction it.

"I thought the hard part was going to be getting the commander on board, but when I approached him with the idea, he simply said, 'I'm in - let's do it,'" Rogal said.

Rogal said he felt no anxiety about his impending skydive as the plane ascended until two civilians leaped out of the plane for their adventure, but he didn't hesitate when his time came.

"Once you're standing in the doorway, there's only one way to get down," he said.

The skydive itself was peaceful and relaxing, Rogal said.

"The freefall happens so quickly that you just try and take in all the scenery," he said. "Once the chute opened, my tandem instructor and I just had a normal conversation and he pointed out various landmarks around the landing zone. I think I may have asked him to ensure me that the first chute opened without any difficulty."

Bodenstein, who administered the re-enlistment oath, said 10 of the 11 Airmen who were part of the excursion had never skydived before, but the instructors made all of the participants feel at ease.

"They make you feel very safe and comfortable," he said.

As for his skydive, Bodenstein said the freefall was chaos, but security forces training allows members to be relaxed and stay focused when stress levels rise.

"You freefall for about 45 seconds at 120 miles per hour," he said. "The chute then opens and you float for about four minutes. That was the best part - it's very peaceful and relaxing."

Bodenstein said re-enlistment ceremonies like Rogal's bring a "very close-knit unit" even closer together.

Rogal said his wife supported the ceremony.

"She may have only called me crazy once or twice," he said.

An encore may be difficult - for Rogal and the members of his security forces team.

"There have been some jokes around the unit that the next one should be deep sea diving with sharks or rappelling down the Taj, but I haven't really thought about it," he said. "I do know it will be tough to beat this one."