Fire officer tops in field — again
October 14, 2003
These days, young airmen call him “sergeant two-time.”
It started in August after Air Force Master Sgt. Michael L. Rosser earned a top-level military fire services award.
Rosser, the operations chief for the 8th Civil Engineer Squadron at Kunsan Air Base, was chosen the 2003 Department of Defense Military Fire Officer of the Year for outstanding service in the military firefighting field. He also won the award in 1997 as a staff sergeant.
“Everybody seems to be calling me ‘sergeant two-time’ now,” said Rosser. “It’s kind of fun, you know, they give me a hard time and stuff.”
In the event of a fire or aircraft emergency at the base, Rosser’s main job is to take charge at the scene.
“I won it in ’97, and I didn’t really think it would happen twice,” said Rosser, who grew up in Houston and has a wife and an 8-year-old son.
“To get that once is to be struck by lightning, and to get it again is just phenomenal,” said 1st Lt. Herb McConnell, an 8th Fighter Wing spokesman.
But this summer, after Rosser was selected as Air Force Military Fire Officer of the Year, he went to an awards banquet in Dallas, attended by fire chiefs from the armed services and other branches of the Defense Department.
When the DOD’s top fire officer was announced, he heard his own name again.
“I looked over at my wife,” said Rosser, “and I said, ‘I can’t believe our good fortune.’”
Rosser joined the Air Force in 1986 after three years in the Marine Corps. He spent some time in Pakistan just weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and he draws on that experience for leadership purposes.
There was no fire-hydrant system where Rosser’s unit set up, so they had to be resourceful to function as an effective firefighting unit.
“Out there, yeah, the rules went out the window, so to speak, a little bit,” said Rosser, “and you had to figure out how to accomplish your mission. I guess that’s what they mean by ‘thinking outside the box.’
“It was just the ingenuity of watching people figure out how to accomplish their mission without somebody with a bunch of stripes standing there to tell them how to do it. And I think it was a little more of a confidence-building — ‘I can go out and still get my mission accomplished.’”
Aside from properly training his subordinates, Rosser aims to guard them from the burnout that can come with emergency-service work.
“I try and teach ’em how the system works, and I try and make them the best firefighters I can,” Rosser said. “Basically, what I teach them is … take your job seriously, but don’t take it so seriously that it becomes a burden, especially in firefighting or any type of emergency services. Take things one day at a time.”