Skip to Search Skip to Global Navigation Skip to Local Navigation Skip to Content
Sombrilla Mast


The University of Texas at San Antonio Online Magazine

UTSA’s Top Gun

Anthony Rock ’82

When U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Anthony Rock finishes his assignment as the senior military leader in Islamabad, Pakistan, he wouldn’t mind returning to UTSA to flip the coin at a football game.

“It would be great to be invited back and represent the [Department of Defense] at one of the games,” Rock said during a Skype interview from the U.S. embassy in Islamabad. ”The Roadrunners need to know they are now famous in Islamabad, Pakistan, because they were on television here” when they played Arizona in their first home game on Sept. 4.

Rock has spent more than three decades in the military, beginning his pilot training at Laughlin Air Force Base in Del Rio, Texas, in 1983 after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in history. He flew missions out of Saudi Arabia during the start of the 1990 Iraq war, after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. And 20 years later, in 2010, as part of Operation New Dawn -- a change of name from Operation Iraqi Freedom -- Rock headed overseas again to help train members of the new Iraqi air force.

He was even featured in a reality show called American Fighter Pilot.

His latest assignment, in Pakistan, began after he received his third star during a hometown promotion ceremony at Randolph Air Force Base in May that drew about 100 friends and family, including his longtime wife, Kim, a Uvalde native. Of his 18 previous assignments throughout his career, the promotion was the San Antonio native’s first in his hometown.

Building on the years the U.S. has been working at the embassy in Pakistan, Rock says the goal of his 18-month assignment is to continue working to make the diplomatic relationship stable for a long period of time. He and his staff also are charged with making sure lines of communication and support are open for forces in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“Over the 67 years of Pakistani independence, the U.S. and Pakistan relations have been high crests and low troughs,” he explains. “Our primary job is to try and dampen out those huge changes in the relationship -- the incredibly high crests and very deep troughs.”

The time away from his wife and three children, the oldest of whom is now 30, has been tough, but technological advances have helped. During his first deployment in 1990–1991, he used to write letters home every day, and the family could count on a phone call about every week or 10 days. ”My wife would mail me children’s books, and I would mail a recording of me reading the book. My kids would read the book and listen to the tape. Now we have Skype. I can talk to Kim 24/7.”

Rock says he fell into his military career much the way he did his history major. His father, who was in the military, settled the family in a northeast San Antonio neighborhood in 1965 and soon kept moving farther into the outskirts of the city until they landed in Hollywood Park.

He lived in a studio apartment at the only complex nearby and thought the fledgling UTSA would be a good way to get started. He started in business but realized that wasn’t for him, so he opted for history because “I was always told you should study what you love.” In the end, he says, the education he received helped him become a better critical thinker. The professors that made the biggest impact on him were “the ones who challenged you not just to read and regurgitate but to read, think deeply about what you read, to form opinions and be able to defend those opinions.”

Read our extended Q&A with Anthony Rock, in which the lieutenant general reveals how he got his call sign, ”Heater,” and what he really thinks of his reality-TV debut. He also talks about his role in Pakistan, gives advice for soldiers returning from duty and tells us what he’s learned about leadership.

–Michelle Mondo


Please keep all comments constructive and relevant to the articles you're commenting on. Sombrilla reserves the right to delete or edit messages.
blog comments powered by Disqus

Current Issue: Fall/Winter 2014 | Table of Contents