By Charlsy Panzino
Col. Cesar Rodriguez, USAF (Ret), learned during his almost 27 years in the Air Force that it’s never just about one person — it takes the entire community, both deployed and at home, to be successful. That’s why when Rodriguez retired in 2006, he focused on giving back to his local community of veterans in Arizona.
Rodriguez, who flew the A-10 and the F-15C with three air-to-air combat victories, was stationed all around the world — from Germany and England to Florida and Idaho. Rodriguez and his family decided to stay in Tucson, Ariz., after his last assignment as commander of the 355th Mission Support Group at Davis-Monthan AFB.
After retiring from the private sector in 2021, Rodriguez started his own defense consulting company, Splash Three LLC, and dedicates the rest of his time to local nonprofits in the Tucson area.
“MOAA and other organizations do a lot of things in [Washington], D.C., and with our congressional entities,” Rodriguez said. “I’m able to focus on things that are directly happening in Tucson day in and day out.”
EEE provides homeless veterans and their families with temporary housing as a place to start and get on their feet, Rodriguez said.
“By being with EEE, they can come in and have a place to stay that’s safe for them and their children and their family,” he added.
Women Warriors Tucson focuses on the needs of women veterans, including food, clothing, and necessities.
“This center truly is trying to help women not become victims of their surroundings,” Rodriguez said. “… When I drive around Tucson, I can see the beauty of the Southwest, but I also know that there are areas that are dark and need our help and attention.”
A World of Many
Rodriguez’s deployments with Operation Desert Storm and Operation Allied Force resulted in three air-to-air combat victories, making him one of a small group of pilots that came closest to becoming the first U.S. flying ace since the Vietnam War.
The Air Force veteran said he was honored to have the opportunity to put his training and the team he was a part of to the test and come out victorious.
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“I would also say that while some people think that in the world of being a fighter pilot, it’s a world of one, I would argue and continuously remind people that it’s a world of many,” Rodriguez said.
From the families taking care of life back home to every servicemember’s deployed brotherhood and sisterhood, every victory is the result of an entire team, he said.
“As a fighter pilot, while I can strap onto the jet … the real truth is there’s an entire great Air Force behind you,” Rodriguez said.
Charlsy Panzino is a writer based in Idaho.