KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – With each sortie that Air Force Lt. Col. Michael Rose flies over Afghanistan, he adds to his family’s rich history. As an F-16 pilot assigned to the 157th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron here, he is the third member of his family to fly in combat for the Air Force. His father and grandfather also flew Air Force combat missions.
A 1992 graduate of Texas A&M University, Rose became an Airborne Warning and Control System weapons controller after he received his Air Force commission. He flew with AWACS until he was accepted into pilot training in 1999, and he earned his wings in Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training.
Rose said his father and grandfather have been instrumental in his career and have celebrated his achievements with him. His father commissioned him after college, and his grandfather pinned his original World War II pilot’s wings on him at his pilot training graduation. “That was pretty cool,” the F-16 pilot said.
His father, retired Air Force Col. Gene Rose III, flew two tours in the Vietnam War. His first tour was as a forward air controller in an OV-10, flying out of the central Vietnamese city of Pleiku and over the Ho Chi Minh Trail. His second deployment was as a B-52 pilot flying out of Thailand.
His grandfather, retired Army Air Corps Capt. Gene Rose Jr., flew C-47s during some of World War II’s largest battles in the European theater. As a pilot for cargo carriers, he dropped airborne forces in Sicily and 82nd Airborne Division soldiers during the Normandy invasion on D-Day. Rose said his grandfather died shortly after the HBO miniseries “Band of Brothers” aired, and had been moved to see the airborne drop scenes were portrayed as he recalled them from his own experience.
Rose said his interest in aviation and the Air Force came from his grandfather, who took him fishing as a child and would tell him stories. He added that while stationed in Italy, his wife took him to Normandy as a birthday surprise. They had a private tour of the area that included sites of the airborne invasion. His guide used a metal detector to find spent U.S. shell casings of American soldiers from where his grandfather’s plane would have dropped men.
“I like to think they’re from his stick,” Rose said.
While deployed in Afghanistan, Rose has been providing close air support to coalition forces on the ground. Rose said the highlight of his current deployment has been working with those troops.
“Hearing the sense of relief in their voice when they need airpower and we’re there for them” is the highlight of this deployment, he said.
When his deployment is over, Rose will return to the 169th Fighter Wing at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., where he will resume his duties as commander of Detachment 1, 20th Operations Group for the active association with the South Carolina Air National Guard and the active duty Air Force.