HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. (AFPN) -- In a small farming town near what was then Loring Air Force Base, Maine, 18-year-old Roger Sirois made a decision. What he did not know was it would lead him and his high-school sweetheart on a 25-year personal and professional journey. In 1980, Roger asked his girlfriend, Lisa Warrington, to marry him after their high-school graduation ceremony.
Lisa and Roger had been friends since she moved to Limestone, Maine, in 1976, and they started dating in 1977 while they were high-school sophomores.
“One day before graduation, (Lisa) came home from the recruiter’s office and said, ‘I’m going into the Air Force,’” Roger said. “I wasn’t convinced that it was something that I wanted to do, but if I wanted to be with her, I felt I had to join the military, too. So, on graduation day, I asked her to marry me. She accepted, and that is when I said, ‘Well, I guess we’re both going into the military.’”
They married Aug. 2, 1980, and Roger left for basic training at Lackland AFB, Texas, three weeks later. Lisa left for Lackland two weeks after that, but her quest was almost canceled immediately upon arrival at basic training. Lisa got her first experience dealing with the wrath of a military training instructor.
“I’ve never had anyone yell at me like that before,” Lisa said describing a run-in she had with her instructor on one of the first days of training. “I was trying to clip my dog tags to put them around my neck, but the TI was yelling so loudly, and I was shaking so badly, that all I could think of was, ‘What have I done? I don’t want to do this. I want to go home.’
“I don’t think I ever thought about what would happen in basic training,” she said. “I just knew that I wanted to go into the Air Force and retire at 20 years. The thought of having a retirement for the rest of my life was appealing. So, I never paid attention to the things that were to eventually happen to me in basic training.”
Today, Roger has a different take on what happened in basic training.
“She doesn’t like taking orders,” Roger said jokingly.
But what was not a joke was that “she was so adamant (about) getting out that I got a call,” he said. “Her TI thought it would be a good idea if Lisa and I spent some time together. So, our TIs got us some time at the chapel where we could discuss things. Basically, if she was getting out, I was out too. I was not staying in … it wasn’t my idea to join in the first place. I already had the mindset that I was doing four years, and I’m out.”
After meeting in the chapel and talking about what they were going to do, they decided to stay in the military.
“As soon as I said ‘OK,’ that was it,” Lisa said about their decision to stay in. “There was never any looking back, ever. And, anything that I did, I did with energy and enthusiasm.”
Both graduated basic training within weeks of each other and headed to Keesler AFB, Miss., where Lisa attended administrative technician technical school, and Roger reported to ground radio maintenance technical school. The only problem was that Lisa’s school was only six weeks, and Roger’s was several months.
So, the two got to be a married couple for the next six weeks and they rented an apartment off base.
Their first duty station was a joint assignment to Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, but while Lisa waited for Roger to complete technical school, she spent the first four months in the dormitories.
It was at Wright-Patterson where Lisa said she learned a lesson she has never forgotten.
“I had a master sergeant who cared,” Lisa said. “He realized that I needed some time, and he gave me the time I needed to get settled, to make that dormitory room a home for me. ‘When you come (to work) I want you to be ready,’ he said, and I was. That small gesture made a big difference.”
It allowed Lisa to be mentally prepared with the mindset that set her up for success. She said she also quickly learned the ropes of her job.
“When I committed to the Air Force, I went for it,” Lisa said.
After joining her at Wright-Patterson, Roger said, “I watched her ‘shoot out of the blocks,’ so to speak.”
He was talking about how Lisa was promoted to senior airman below the zone and then made staff sergeant on the first try.
“I set my goal to become a chief master sergeant the day I committed to stay in the Air Force during basic training,” she said. “Once I got into the job at Wright-Patterson and got the feel for what I was doing, I thought for sure that ‘I’m going to be the chief master sergeant of the Air Force someday.’”
Roger’s experience at Wright-Patterson was a little bit different.
“I still wasn’t prepared to make the Air Force a career,” he said. “But, I was in, so I was embracing it and seeing what other opportunities were out there.”
He said he eventually saw his calling.
“I enjoyed being a radio maintenance technician,” Roger said. “But I also saw what I thought was a pretty influential position in the squadron, the first sergeant.
“He would catch people doing things right,” he said. “He would be there; he would see you doing something and would recognize you for it. You felt like you could talk to him.”
At the time, not knowing that he was going to make the Air Force a career, Roger said he decided that being a first sergeant was an interesting job.
“I thought, ‘There’s my calling if I decide to stay in,’” he said.
In 1982, Lisa gave birth to Brad, the first of two children. She was still committed to staying in the Air Force for 20 years, but it was not as cut and dry for Roger. Ultimately, he said, Brad and a remote assignment to King Salmon Air Force Station, Alaska, helped him make the decision to stay in.
He had to either extend his enlistment or re-enlist altogether to accept the one-year remote assignment, or decline it and leave the military very quickly.
The second option of declining the assignment “wouldn’t have been a very good decision for our family with our son,” he said. Adding to the benefits of re-enlisting was a bonus to stay in. He re-enlisted for six years.
“I was thinking, ‘I can do nine or 10 years, and I can still get out at that point,’” he said.
Roger did his one-year remote in Alaska and the two Airmen continued with their careers making promotions, and had their second child, Kyle, in 1986. But Roger still faced another decision: To go past the 10-year mark or not.
“I saw how much the military had given us,” Roger said. “So, here I had two children, a wife who is just kicking butt in the military, and is super motivated and super charged about it. She is going to make chief. My kids are in a good school.
“We have nice things -- the vacation plan is fantastic; the medical is fantastic -- all the benefits are there.” he said. “It was just an attractive package that I couldn’t turn away. And by then, I became what the Air Force wanted to keep in -- a motivated, dedicated person.”
So, Roger promised Lisa and the Air Force 20 years of service.
During this time, the family did endure the typical military lifestyles with frequent temporary-duty assignments and deployments. But, the two Airmen carefully planned their careers and moves around valid military requirements allowing them to be stationed together wherever they went.
This was definitely true when Lisa discovered she was close to “getting in the window” for a remote-tour assignment. Roger had just been promoted to master sergeant and was getting ready to “follow his calling” as a first sergeant with Lisa getting vulnerable. Rather than separate the family, Roger put his plans on hold and the two volunteered for overseas special-duty assignments together.
Roger spent the next three years as the chief of communications for the U.S. Pacific Command commander and Lisa was the superintendent of the executive support section in the Pacific Air Forces directorate of logistics. During this time, Lisa was promoted to senior master sergeant.
Roger still did not give up his first sergeant dream, though.
After the special-duty assignments to Hawaii, Roger was given a chance to become a first sergeant when they were stationed at Ellsworth AFB, S.D. He was also selected for promotion to senior master sergeant.
“Much through my staff-, technical-, and master-sergeant years, my kids were very young,” he said. “I coached wrestling, football and baseball. Call it an excuse that I used, or call it whatever, I put that ahead of studying, but the day I made senior master sergeant, I thought, ‘Well, I’m not stopping now.’”
Lisa also got an opportunity while at Ellsworth. After 20 years in the administrative information management career field, she was asked to become the 28th Bomb Wing’s career assistance adviser.
“I had been in staff work for so long, and I loved it,” Lisa said. “I loved all the experiences and the people (who) I worked for, but the thing that was missing was taking care of the enlisted force.
“You make a difference in a person’s life when you can help them,” Lisa said. “That was a big turn for me because it put me down a different track.”
Lisa’s goal at the time was to become the major command’s IM functional manager and then go on and become the Air Force IM career field manager. But after she became a career assistance adviser at Ellsworth, she decided to forge a different path.
“I got a taste of something that I really liked,” Lisa said. “It was absolutely the most satisfying job that I’ve ever done. You could see the impact. In a sense, it was like being a first sergeant and taking care of people without the discipline, and it was awesome.”
Roger, in the meantime, attended the First Sergeant Academy and graduated as both the top graduate and commandant award winner in November 2000.
He was promoted to senior master sergeant in March 2001, and Lisa reached her goal of becoming a chief master sergeant in 2002.
The Sirois’ were given a humanitarian assignment here after Roger’s father became ill. Lisa became the superintendent for the 66th Mission Support Group, while Roger was assigned to the 66th Medical Group as their first sergeant. He joined Lisa as a chief master sergeant recently.
Roger said his relationship with his wife is “a true love story.
“My wife and I aren’t just best friends. I mean that is how we met, we were best friends,” he said. “She motivates me every day. When I feel down, she’s my motivation to keep going. She’s got such a positive spin on everything and always has. She’s truly got the energy.”
Lisa had a different take on their partnership with each other and the Air Force.
“My energy may motivate him, but his compassion for his people -- for our Air Force -- motivates me,” she said. “Sometimes I am awed by how he handles each situation perfectly. We have a mutual respect in different areas that always encourages one another.
“Looking back, 25 years ago, I thought that I was going to be a chief. Roger may not have thought that, but it is our life,” she said. “It’s what we do. From that respect, I expected to still be here. The way I look at it, I will stay as long as I’m still having fun, loving what I do and making a difference for our Air Force.”
Roger echoed her profound love for the Air Force.
“The Air Force gets in your blood, and you realize that no matter how much rank or prestige you have, we’re making a difference,” he said. “What kind of a job on the outside can you make this big of a difference. I’m at the point now in my career that I’m going to stay until they make me leave, versus 20 years and I’m done.”
Simply put, Lisa said, “It’s been a great way of life.”