AFRL Sensors Directorate holds 9/11 memorial stair climb

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio (AFRL) — The Air Force Research Laboratory held a memorial stair climb Sept. 12, 2022, to commemorate the victims and first responders of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

As Lt. Col. Rodrick Koch, the deputy director of AFRL’s Sensors Directorate, said a few words, firefighters from the 788th Civil Engineer Squadron began climbing the stairs of the 13-story tower to place an American flag at the top, kicking off the event.

“Even small gestures of service to those who sacrificed their lives that day have an immense impact,” said Koch. “Events like this serve as a reminder to generations to come, and ensure they will not be forgotten.”

Once the flag was placed, participants began climbing the tower. Over the course of the day, 58 people climbed the tower at least once. Several people climbed the tower eight times, covering a distance that equals the height of one of the World Trade Center towers. A few even climbed it 16 times, equal the height of both World Trade Center towers.

“This event provides a unique opportunity to honor those lost on 9/11, while also bringing together our organization,” said Capt. Jeremiah Williams, an electronics device developmental engineer who helped plan the memorial. “It allows us to come together outside of our individual labs and talk with people we usually only see in the hallways, building unit cohesion.”

The 9/11 memorial stair climb began in 2014 as just a few AFRL employees who liked to climb the 13-story tower as exercise, wanting to remember and honor the victims and first responders who sacrificed their lives on 9/11.

“The turnout for this event has been very positive, so each year it has evolved,” said Ryan Gilbert, a radio frequency test engineer at AFRL’s Sensors Directorate and co-founder of the 9/11 memorial stair climb event. “We started doing fundraisers, added climbing goals, expanded the event from one day to two, and increased the climbing time limit to three hours. We also added a speed climb category to see who could make it to the top of the tower the fastest.”

Members of the planning committee said the 9/11 memorial stair climb serves as a reminder of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

About AFRL

The Air Force Research Laboratory, or AFRL, is the primary scientific research and development center for the Department of the Air Force. AFRL plays an integral role in leading the discovery, development, and integration of affordable warfighting technologies for our air, space, and cyberspace forces. With a workforce of more than 11,500 across nine technology areas and 40 operations across the globe, AFRL provides a diverse portfolio of science and technology ranging from fundamental to advanced research and technology development. For more information, visit:

image of firefighter

A firefighter from the 788th Civil Engineer Squadron plants an American flag at the top of the building 620 tower on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, Sept. 12, 2022, to begin the 9/11 memorial stair climb. The Air Force Research Laboratory held this memorial event to commemorate the victims and first responders of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. (Courtesy photo)