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26th Space Aggressor Squadron adopts “Roger”

6/23/2015 -- 6/23/2015 - SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Why would a military unit conduct a formal ceremony for a teddy bear?  On Saturday, June 6, 2015, the 26th Space Aggressor Squadron, part of the 926th Wing, did just that.  The squadron held a special adoption ceremony for a teddy bear named Roger XIII at Schriever Air Force Base, Colo. When I first began telling others about the upcoming ceremony I received quizzical looks.  Roger the thirteenth is not your typical stuffed animal; he brings with him a rich and colorful history that is intertwined with our heritage as the oldest squadron in the Air Force Reserve.  Roger was originally adopted by the crew of the B-24 "Sky's Delight" during their training in Tonopah, Nevada.  Sky's Delight was assigned to the 431st Bombardment Squadron, sister squadron to the 26th Bombardment Squadron in the 11th Bombardment Group, the "Grey Geese."

Roger served faithfully as the crew's mascot throughout the war, flying on more than 40 combat missions over the Pacific.  After the war, the crew of Sky's Delight drew names from a hat to see who would take Roger for safekeeping. The honor fell to the ball-turret gunner, Staff Sergeant Neal Siebenbruner, who has given Roger a home for nearly 70 years. Mr. Siebenbruner, a Minnesota native who has spent a lifetime preserving the history of the Grey Geese through the 11th Bomb Group Association, decided to return Roger to his military roots along with several volumes of 11th Bomb Group photographs, stories, and history collected throughout the years.  The honor of adopting Roger XIII was given to the 26th as one of the two wartime squadrons assigned to the 11th Bomb Group that is still active. 

During the ceremony, Neal and his wife, Joyce, shared stories of his time as a ball-turret gunner in World War II, how the crew of the "Sky's Delight" came to adopt Roger, and various missions they flew together.  Neal told of one mission where their B-24 was third in line for takeoff and fully laden with bombs and fuel when they discovered they forgot Roger.  Without hesitation, the pilot pulled off into a revetment and declared an emergency, requesting a jeep be sent out as soon as possible. Once the crew retrieved Roger, they took off and completed their mission without incident.  The men and women of the 26th Space Aggressor Squadron listened intently to each of these stories and relished the opportunity to learn from a great American.  When asked what advice he would give to today's Airmen, Mr. Siebenbruner offered two simple words: "work hard."  As the ceremony drew to a close, Roger's transfer order was read and the third verse of the Air Force song was sung to honor the fallen Airmen who gave so much to preserve freedom from tyranny. 

Following the adoption, all the historical binders, books, and reunion materials Mr. Siebenbruner had donated were on display throughout the facility, but Roger was center of attention. Roger wears dog tags stating his religion is "non-denominational" with blood type "S" for sawdust. Roger's crew also awarded him Captain's bars, pilot's wings, and the same medals they received, which they saw as only fitting for their beloved companion. These include the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, American Campaign Medal, Pacific Campaign Medal, and WWII Victory Medal.

The 26th Space Aggressor Squadron is greatly honored and humbled to adopt Roger as one of our own where he will continue to serve keeping the proud history of the Grey Geese alive and well in the hearts of the Airmen of today and tomorrow.