Brothers in Arms, at Home

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Zachary Heal
  • 36th Wing Public Affairs

“There are a couple of moments in your life that you know that you will remember for the rest of your life,” said Lt. Col. Antonio Rodriguez, a 506th Expeditionary Refueling Squadron pilot. “Getting married, graduating from college, the birth of my four kids, and so on. This will definitely will be one of those moments.”

Although many military members have a sibling or cousin who are also in the armed forces, not many get the opportunity to work directly with them to complete the mission. Often times, two family members aren’t even stationed on the same side of the world, and would consider themselves lucky to be at the same location working together. At Cope North 2020, that’s exactly what happened.

As part of Cope North, Lt. Col. Antonio Rodriguez, performed an in-air refueling for his brother Lt. Col. Julio Rodriguez, a pilot with the 18th Aggressor Squadron.

“I have wanted to get fuel from my brother for years,” said Julio. “We tried a number of times, but always missed the opportunity. It’s kind-of an emotional thing. Not only are we involved in a family experience that we can always talk about, but we are taking place in an activity that very few nations in the world can put together, the movement of combat [air]power whenever, wherever!”

The Rodriguez brothers’ journey as Air Force pilots began in 1994, when Julio was accepted into the Air Force Academy and then eventually, pilot training. Following in Julio’s footsteps into the Air Force, Antonio decided to join the ROTC program to pay for his college costs.

“I don’t think I would be here if it weren’t for Julio,” said Antonio. “He is my hero and it has been great to follow in his footsteps. He’s a good example to me how to carry yourself and be a professional aviator.”

While he initially wanted to fly fighters like his older brother, Antonio said he found himself more suited for flying heavier and larger aircraft. After pilot training, Antonio became a T-1A instructor pilot, and then eventually began flying the KC-135.

“It’s always been fun to have so much in common that we are both involved in aviation, even if he is a heavy driving nerd,” Julio joked.

“It’s been a great experience serving with my brother,” Julio continued. “I’ve always thought that my younger brother is a better man and leader than I could be as he was being groomed for greatness in the active duty.”

Another thing that made this event even more unique is Julio’s upcoming retirement in June, making this likely the only and final opportunity for these brothers to fly together.

“I always knew this day was on the horizon,” expressed Antonio, “but seeing him retiring is going to be emotional quite frankly. He is my older brother and my mentor. Every step of my career I have talked to him about what to do next and received guidance from him.”

While his days of mentoring, teaching, and leading Airmen might be winding down, Julio’s days of mentoring and teaching are far from over as he is married with four kids.

“I will miss the capacity to work and willingness to fight and die with those I serve,” reflected Julio. “I will kind of miss the unknown of what will happen or where we will go next. I will miss doing the job on TDY’s or deployments. I won’t miss the time I have to give up with my family. My family has always been my primary priority and it is important to me to spend as much time as possible with them.”