HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. --
A journey which began before birth continues into a career in Air Force Special Operations Command for two fraternal twins who were both selected for promotion to senior airman below-the-zone (BTZ).
Airman 1st Class Jonathan Rodgers, 1st Special Operations Logistics Readiness Squadron CV-22 Osprey parts store supply journeyman and Airman 1st Class Alexander Rodgers, 27th Special Operations Aircraft Maintenance Squadron aerospace propulsion mechanic, were notified of this accomplishment in March.
Their lives before the Air Force prepared them for this achievement.
“We were born in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, but are originally from the Bahamas,” said Jonathan. “Our mom moved us here because she believes a lot in education and opportunity.”
As young children, the twins attended the same schools.
“We went to the same elementary, middle and high school as kids,” said Jonathan. “We both ran track in high school. We were always together, even in the same classes. We never switched classes until the last day of school to see if the teacher would notice. The teacher didn’t notice.”
Whether they were attending classes or playing sports, the twins always took care of one another; a practice which continues to the present.
“I’ve always looked out for him,” said Jonathan. “Anytime I wanted food, I made sure he had something to eat. Anytime I wanted something, I made sure he had it too.”
The twins added that their mother took similar measures to not show favoritism.
“Our mom made sure she bought stuff in twos,” said Jonathan. “She didn’t want one to feel like they were getting more than the other.”
The twins always felt loved and encouraged by their mother as they were going through life, which further strengthened their bond.
“We are so close as brothers, but we’re also completely opposite,” said Jonathan. “We don’t dress alike, we don’t do the whole matching thing. However, everything he feels, I feel.”
Alexander added that in spite of their opposite natures, they complete each other.
“We’re always determined to make each other better,” said Alexander. “We’re very competitive. We’re always pushing each other to go the extra mile and take the extra steps. If he does something, I do it.”
Preparing for the next steps - their Air Force career
The one thing Jonathan wanted to do differently from his brother was his career choice.
“I just wanted to go to college and have that college experience,” said Jonathan. “That college experience is something you can never get until you go to a campus. In high school, our senior year of high school, I was signed up for college and ready to go to college. He knew he wanted to join the Air Force. He had already signed up with the recruiter and had his ship out date and all.”
Since Alexander was four years old, he knew he would join the Air Force.
“We were living in the Bahamas and I saw the Air Force commercial,” said Alexander. “It was the coolest thing. I saw these dudes just flying over, doing these cool things and I’m like, ‘I want to join the Air Force.’ I told my mom I wanted to join after that one commercial. I was determined to get into the Air Force…determined.”
Throughout their childhood years, Alexander’s desire never faded. When they were in high school and he thought his brother would be going to college, Alexander was concerned.
“It was kind of shocking,” said Alexander. “I grew up with him my whole life, and the thought of him going one way and me going another way, it was kind of shocking and scary at the same time. You have this built-in best friend and this person you’ve been with your whole life. To part ways, I thought that was kind of scary, but it worked out in the end.”
On their last day of high school together, Jonathan faced his final career choice.
“I was thinking, ‘I don’t want to leave my brother,’” said Jonathan. “The week before he had to ship out, I had to make my decision if I wanted to join.”
Taking the plunge, Jonathan made his decision.
“We joined the Air Force when we were 17 years old,” said Jonathan. “Our mom had to sign the consent form. Our birthday was June 10, we graduated high school June 15, and we shipped out for basic June 20. Everything happened within a 10-15 day period.”
As the twins attended basic military training, they were in the same flight.
“The military training instructor would call one of us into the flight office,” said Jonathan. “He’d say, ‘Rodgers come here.’ We’d both go to the flight office and he would say, ‘I didn’t call both of you!’ We would often have to switch. That happened a lot.”
The journey into AFSOC
After graduating from BMT and their respective technical schools, the twins discovered they were both going to AFSOC.
“When I found out I was coming to AFSOC, I heard it was a totally different lifestyle than the normal Air Force,” said Jonathan. “It’s fast-paced, it’s high-tempo and I knew I was ready for it. Then I found out my brother was going to AFSOC, and I thought, ‘Wow, that’s such a coincidence! He’s going to AFSOC too!’”
Upon arriving to their respective work centers, the twins enjoy the AFSOC lifestyle.
“I love the different opportunities,” said Jonathan. “I went to the honor guard and it was such a good experience for me. I’ve had the chance to meet Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein and Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright. It was unforgettable. I also like the movement in AFSOC. We’re not in a 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. job sitting behind a desk.”
Alexander offered a similar opinion of his job in AFSOC.
“I love my job,” said Alexander. “I’m very hands-on and it really gets the brain going. I also get to travel a lot. It’s just a great experience because you do so many new things, and it opens your eyes up to more than just what you know. I just went TDY to Canada, Romania and Mildenhall. This experience I’m going through right now is unforgettable because I’ve never been outside of the country, besides the Bahamas. I’m getting to meet new people and experience new cultures.”
Many of the new people the brothers met in AFSOC helped and inspired them to get BTZ.
“I had an old first shirt, his name was Senior Master Sgt. Joey Hall,” said Alexander. “He retired a couple of months ago. When I met him, he was just a genuine sweet guy who was so motivating. When I sat down with him, he saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself. When I talked with him, he said I could be anything I wanted to be and fly through the ranks.”
Hall continued to encourage and drive Alexander to get BTZ.
“He said if I stayed focused and continued to do what I’m doing, I can make BTZ and he told me he wanted me to make it,” said Alexander. “Coming from a genuine guy, I wanted to make him proud. He was such a good guy and a great first shirt. I was motived by him and I wanted to be like him.”
Jonathan said they both strived for BTZ.
“We did make it a goal to get BTZ,” said Jonathan. “We did everything we could to make ourselves stand out. We both want to make staff sergeant the first time also. We have such good mentors in our life, being in AFSOC, people who have been all around.”
The twins’ mother, Nichelle Gray, had some insights on their success.
“I’m super proud as their mother,” said Gray. “I heard Jonathan got it first and then Alexander. At first, I was shocked. I was expecting them both to get it, but the reality when they both got it just seems so surreal. I can certainly tell you both Jonathan and Alexander have exceeded my expectations in every way, so it was just exhilarating.”
Gray also said this will not be the last time she hears of her sons’ success.
“I think they will be great mentors and will continue excelling,” said Gray. “I know they both want to excel and take advantage of the programs. I absolutely think that both Jonathan and Alexander will make a career in the Air Force. They both want to make rank each and every year. That is something I’m looking forward to celebrating with both of my sons.”
As the brothers continue their careers in the Air Force, they plan to mentor those around them.
“I feel like my brother and I will be great leaders,” said Alexander. “We can help people out. We have the ability to speak and motivate people to become great Airmen. I would like to be that male mentor figure, someone to talk to and get to know you and make you a better person. We have accomplished so much at such a young age; we’re just 19 years old.”
Although the twins are stationed at different bases in AFSOC, they still stay in contact with one another.
“He’s my built-in best friend,” they both said.