Camp Shelby, Miss. –
CAMP SHELBY, Miss. – “My (military) career was over in April of 2016, said Staff Sgt. Joel Rogers, assigned to the 2-346th Training Support Battalion, 85th Support Command. “I put in a retirement packet and then I started feeling my energy come back.”
According to Rogers, whose unit is operationally controlled by First Army’s 177th Infantry Brigade at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, he learned that a normal range of testosterone level for a male his age was between 350 to 700 nanograms per deciliter, and his body was just producing slightly more than 100 ng/dL.
Rogers, who completed basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, and his advanced individual training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma as a 13F (Fire Support Specialist), said that the Army was his opportunity to make a career for himself after he finished high school.
“From my hometown, there’s not a lot available for young kids coming out of high school, so to have a career and a future, I decided to join the Army in 1995,” said Rogers. “I only intended to do three years, but one year led to another and now I’m at 23 years, so it’s been a real blessing for me and my family.
In 1998, Rogers served on a deployment to Kuwait under Operation Desert Thunder with the 3rd Infantry Division. He decided to leave the Army after his deployment, but one year later he joined the U.S. Army Reserve.
“I joined the (Army) Reserve in 2000 at Camp Shelby as a (specialist) E4, and worked my way up to (the rank of) staff sergeant,” said Rogers. “I was mobilized in 2003 after the war (began) and I stayed mobilized until the end of 2013 at Camp Shelby for Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. I was on mobilizations there for 10 years as an (observer coach/trainer).
Some of Rogers’ duties during his mobilization, as an OC/T, included training deploying forces on base defense, urban operations and counter IED (improvised explosive device). He was also an OC/T instructor for four years “training the trainers” at the First Army Academy at Camp Shelby, Mississippi.
In January of 2014, after Rogers came off of his mobilization, he noticed a problem occurring with his ability to function throughout the day, and maintaining his energy after starting a new job working third shift. He attempted to change his job, change shifts, and his daily lifestyle, but it did not seem to help.
“I was doing (physical training) every day, and trying to eat healthy, but nothing was working,” said Rogers. “One of my peers knew about testosterone issues and told me to get mine checked out.”
After learning that he had very low testosterone levels, Rogers was put on a regimen to administer injections every two weeks.
Rogers said that almost instantly he began to feel a considerable difference in energy levels. Previously, he would get home from work and sit on his couch until he passed out, and slept until the next morning.
“It was not good,” said Rogers, who is married with two children, a 10-year old boy and a four-year old girl. “My family was missing me, but I was done.”
“I would come home and feel like I ran ten miles (numerous times) a day,” Rogers said. “I would get a good night’s rest, get up the next day and get about three hours into the day at my job and would be wore out. I had no drive. At the time, I thought I was just overweight and that is why I was tired.”
Rogers shared that learning about his testosterone levels was just a portion of the fight for him.
“Figuring out the problem was part of the battle,” said Rogers. “Once I figured out what was going on, I started taking my shots and doing PT again and eating healthy.
Rogers tried a diet that allowed him to consume a low portion of carbohydrates so his body would begin to burn fat as fuel for his body.
“I started doing that and eating healthier, taking in meats and vegetables, and staying away from the starches, breads and sugars,” said Rogers. “I was doing my regular PT and I lost 49 pounds. I went from 215 pounds to 166.”
The combination of the injections and living a healthier lifestyle has changed his life all around, according to Rogers.
“My first weekend, I was up at five o’clock in the morning, up and ready to go,” said Rogers. “I don’t sleep past five thirty anymore. I’m up early, moving and energetic throughout the day.”
“When I get home, I sit down and eat a sensible meal with my family, and then we’re outside doing activities, playing baseball and games,” Rogers said.
Rogers had to take an Army Physical Fitness Test to determine if he was going to be able to remain in the Army, but according to Rogers, it was a great day for him.
“My leadership was ecstatic. My former first sergeant and my current first sergeant were both there, and stood at the finish line until I crossed,” said Rogers. “And they rooted me on the whole time, ‘Come on Rogers! Let’s go! Keep it up!’ Normally, I would just squeak by, but that was the best run that I had ever had. Now I’m maintaining. I’m running every day.”
Rogers shared that he will have to take the testosterone shots for the rest of his life, but they have helped rejuvenate his career and lifestyle.
“I’m now scheduled for Advanced Leader Course in March and April (2019) for phase one and two,” Rogers said. “Now my family life is good; my job has been really good and my output is a lot better.”
Rogers explained that the Army was a big part of his life and it meant a lot to him, but because of his condition, he thought he was going to have to leave it; but now he is able to have a second chance and he has established goals for the next chapter of his career.
“The Army has been a part of me for 20 years, and it would have definitely been hard to give that up,” said Rogers. “When it came down for me to sign my (retirement) packet, it hit me and I was not ready to go. At that moment, I knew I had more left to give to the Army.”
“My goal now before I retire is to make (the rank of) master sergeant,” Rogers said. “I’d like to be a first sergeant because I had two outstanding first sergeants. The command team with lieutenant colonel (Loren) Duwel and major (Teri) Wright have been amazing.”
Brig. Gen. Kris A. Belanger, commanding general of the 85th Support Command recently visited Rogers’ unit at Camp Shelby and met with him, learning more about his story and presented him with a coin of excellence for what he was able to overcome.
“He truly exemplifies the 85th ‘Can Do’ spirit,” said Belanger. “I am so proud of him overcoming a defeatist mentality and for seizing control of his life. He is now much more healthy, feels great, and has so much more energy than he ever had before. His efforts have not only made a positive impact to his military career, but for his family as well. He is truly an inspiration to all.”
Rogers shared that testosterone levels were part of the issue for him, but agreed to share his story in hopes to help other Soldiers that may be going through similar difficulties.
“I’m doing good and I hope this helps others,” said Rogers. “My only advice would be that testosterone might not affect you. That might not be the problem. The problem may be that you just need to push away from the table and stand up; eat healthy and go outside and be active.”