Two city employees return from Air National Guard deployment overseas

‘We had a good group and did a lot of good things’

Jeff Helfrich
Posted 2/7/22

Andy Rogde and Jonathan Plaza recently returned from a 90-day deployment to Saudi Arabia with their Madison, Wisconsin Air National Guard unit.

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Two city employees return from Air National Guard deployment overseas

‘We had a good group and did a lot of good things’


ROCHELLE — At the Jan. 24 Rochelle City Council meeting, Andy Rogde presented a flag to the city on behalf of himself and fellow city employee Jonathan Plaza after the pair returned last month from deployment in Saudi Arabia with their Madison, Wisconsin Air National Guard unit. 

“We wanted to bring back something the city could have and thank it for the support when we were gone,” Rogde said. 

Rogde and Plaza departed for Saudi Arabia and Operation Inherent Resolve on Oct. 4 and returned Jan. 14. Rogde’s rank is technical sergeant and while deployed he handled material management, which involved aircraft supplies and the replacement, ordering and issuing of parts along with supplying personnel with items like uniforms, flashlights, helmets and vests.

Plaza is a technical sergeant as well. His responsibility on the operation included safeguarding tools that crews needed to maintain and repair aircraft. He’s been a truck mechanic with the Air National Guard since 2014 and volunteered for the mission to experience something new and get out of his comfort zone.

“A lot of those tools are unique to aircraft and can be expensive,” Plaza said. “How they maintain aircraft is different. Everyone is assigned to a portion of the aircraft. It was different for me as in the past I would be assigned to an entire truck by myself. It was quite an experience.”

Plaza has been in the military for a total of 12 years. He started in the Air Force at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada in 2010. As a civilian, he works for Rochelle Municipal Utilities in its diesel plant.  

Rogde has been part of the Air National Guard since 2015 and with the Wisconsin unit since 2016 or 2017. He joined the Air Force in 2010 and did four years of active duty stationed in Little Rock, Arkansas. During active duty he was in Qatar on two deployments in 2012 and 2014. Here, he’s the storekeeper in the RMU electric department where he handles inventory.

“Overall, it was a good deployment,” Rogde said of Operation Inherent Resolve. “We did a lot in those 90 days. 90 is half as long as my previous deployments were during active duty. I’d never been to Saudi Arabia. It’s definitely a different environment. We had a good group and did a lot of good things.”

Rogde had never been deployed during the holidays before. He said that it wasn’t easy, but it helped that he worked the night shift in Saudi Arabia while it was daytime in Rochelle. He was able to do a lot of video chats and bought gifts ahead of time for his family.

Plaza has a young daughter that made it hard for him to leave for deployment. 

“I FaceTimed her a lot and seeing her reaction when she’d see my face on the phone was tough,” Plaza said. “I thought it would be easier with her being so small, but it wasn’t. They try to bring morale up while we’re over there for the holidays. We had Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations and had turkey.”

Rogde said the deployment was the last for the F-16 aircraft that the unit has been flying for 28 years. He found that interesting, along with experiencing the middle east during the winter for the first time. He’s been there during summers when the temperature reached 120 degrees. This time around, the weather got “pretty cold.” He stayed in a tent for the first time on this deployment, which took some getting used to. 

Plaza said he got a chance to visit and experience the culture of Al-Kharj, which was the local town the unit was stationed near. He called it “totally different” from the states. He also found the logistics of the flight schedule intriguing.

“I found the way the aircraft was maintained and the flying schedule to be interesting,” Plaza said. “They flew 24 hours a day.”

Both Rogde and Plaza said they enjoyed the experience and expressed desire to go again. When asked what they learned from Operation Inherent Resolve, both men said their leadership skills were improved by the deployment. 

“Overall it was a good experience,” Plaza said. “Anybody who would consider joining the military or the Air National Guard, I would tell them we consider ourselves a huge family. We take care of each other and it’s full of really good experiences.”

One reason Rogde decided to give the flag to the city council was because of the uniqueness of he and Plaza having the same employer and being deployed together in the same unit.

“I thought it was cool that the city had two employees in the same unit deployed,” Rogde said. “I was with Jonathan almost every night with the exception of off nights. I bet the last time the city had two employees deployed in the same unit was during war time. We’re a pretty small town. Something like that can’t have been common in the past.”