Several hundred Alabama Army National Guard troops are helping provide security for President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday, and one of them is a second lieutenant from Oneonta whose parents also had military careers.
Lt. John Rogers, 24, a transportation officer with a unit in the Birmingham-based 20th Special Forces Group, headed to Washington by bus on Sunday with some of his fellow Guard soldiers. Following the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by supporters of outgoing President Donald Trump, tension is running high in D.C.
Thousands of soldiers, including Alabama Guard troops from military police units, will be on hand to stop any re-occurrence of last week’s violence, in which five people died.
Rogers’ mother Tonya, a retired Alabama Army Guard colonel, said she told her son “to be aware of his surroundings at all times, because you don’t know who’s friend and who’s foe.”
“I told him it was his time to be a shining star, to lead by example, and if you communicate and troops trust you, they will follow you to hell and back,” Tonya Rogers said.
“As a mother, I’m gonna worry till they get back, because Washington D.C. is just volatile,” Tonya Rogers said. “But at the same time, I’m so proud of him because he is having the experience of a lifetime … to see what is going on in Washington, D.C.”
A graduate of Oneonta High School and an Eagle Scout, John Rogers majored in economics and minored in history at the University of Alabama. He was not an ROTC student there, but joined the Guard and attended Officer Candidate School at the Alabama Military Academy in Fort McClellan.
“He has either been at an Army course or on orders … since he graduated,” his mother said.
When states were asked to furnish Guard troops for inauguration day security, Rogers was at Camp Bastrop, Texas, attending a course to help officers manage the movement and installation of equipment in combat and non-combat zones. He flew home, met with his commander and other soldiers on Saturday, and stopped by his home in Oneonta to pick up some gear he would need in Washington.
Like many of his fellow Guard soldiers, he was not ordered to deploy to Washington but asked if he was willing do so, and he said yes, his mother said.
“He’s a level-headed kid,” the former Oneonta City Council member said. “He doesn’t make rash decisions. He processes. Every soldier up there is in some form of harm’s way … but I feel like (they have) the tools they need, the training that they were supposed to get to do their job, and Godspeed.”
While increasing numbers of families around the country do not have a history of military service, the Rogers family has such a history. Both of John Rogers’ grandfathers served in World War II, and his father Tim served with the Army’s 101st Airborne Division, was stationed a few years in Germany and spent several years in the Guard as a staff sergeant.
Tonya Rogers, 61, was in the Guard for nearly 30 years before retiring in 2019. In the decade after 9/11, she spent a year in Afghanistan with the Guard’s 135th Expeditionary Sustainment Command, a unit that oversaw the movement of troops and equipment to U.S. bases around the country. Rogers was based in Kandahar but traveled extensively around the Afghanistan, and she said the Taliban made their presence felt just about every day – with mortar rounds.
“They would just sit on top of the mountain and lob them at us,” she said.
With all the security now in D.C., Rogers said she does not expect there to be mortar rounds there on Wednesday. But she worries about attacks coming after time has passed, when people think they can relax.
“Nobody is enjoying what’s happening to our country,” she said. “We need continuity, and we need this country to look we are the Number One country in the world and not as a dysfunctional continent, and that’s what we’re looking like now.”