Cesar Rodriguez was born on March 22, 1959, in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico. He was commissioned a 2nd Lt through the Air Force ROTC program on May 16, 1981, and went on active duty beginning October 29, 1981. Lt Rodriguez next graduated from Undergraduate Pilot Training and was awarded his pilot wings in November 1982, and after additional training he served as an A-10 Thunderbolt II pilot with the 25th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Suwon AB, South Korea, until July 1985. After completing Instructor Pilot Training, he served as an AT-38B Talon instructor pilot with the 436th Tactical Fighter Training Squadron at Holloman AFB, New Mexico, from October 1985 to September 1988, when he transitioned into the F-15 Eagle. His next assignment was with the 58th Tactical Fighter Squadron of the 33rd Fighter Wing at Eglin AFB, Florida, where he served from September 1988 to October 1992. During this time, Capt Rodriguez flew missions in support of the Invasion of Panama in December 1989 and Desert Shield and Desert Storm in 1990-1991, where he was credited with destroying 2 enemy aircraft in aerial combat. He then served as Chief of the Air to Air Branch of 9th Air Force at Shaw AFB, South Carolina, from October 1992 to August 1994, before attending Air Command and Staff College at Maxwell AFB, Alabama, from August 1994 to September 1995. He then served as Chief of Force Requirements and then Executive Officer to the Commander at Headquarters Allied Air Forces Central Europe at Ramstein AB, West Germany, from September 1995 to October 1997, followed by service as Assistant Director of Operations of the 493rd Fighter Squadron and Chief of Wing Safety for the 48th Fighter Wing at RAF Lakenheath, England, from October 1997 to June 1999. During this time, he flew missions in support of Operation Allied Force in Kosovo, where he was credited with destroying his 3rd enemy aircraft in aerial combat, the most any U.S. Military aviator has achieved since the Vietnam War. Col Rodriguez then served as Assistant Chief of Flight Safety with Headquarters Air Combat Command at Langley AFB, Virginia, from June 1999 to July 2001. He then attended the Naval War College from August 2001 to June 2002, before serving as Deputy Commander of the 366th Operations Group of the 366th Fighter Wing at Mountain Home AFB, Idaho, from June 2002 to May 2004. During this time, Col Rodriguez deployed to Kuwait and Iraq as Commander of the 332nd Expeditionary Operations Group of the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing during Operation Southern Watch and Operation Iraqi Freedom. His final assignment was as Commander of the 355th Mission Support Group of the 355th Wing at Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona, where he served from May 2004 until his retirement from the Air Force on November 30, 2006.
His 3rd Distinguished Flying Cross Citation with Valor reads:
Lieutenant Colonel Cesar A. Rodriguez, Jr., distinguished himself by heroism while participating in aerial flight at or near the Former Republic of Yugoslavia near Pristina, Kosovo, the first night of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's air campaign, Operation ALLIED FORCE, on 24 March 1999. On that date, as Deputy Mission Commander of an Offensive Counter Air sorties, Colonel Rodriguez escorted the lead flight of 25 combat aircraft in the first strike against the Former Republic of Yugoslavia, striking targets near Podgorica. Informed of an airborne contact, Colonel Rodriguez immediately placed his element between the threat and the strike package. The bogey, a MIG-29, made a sudden turn and headed directly towards Colonel Rodriguez placing him in mortal danger from its long rang radar missiles. Colonel Rodriguez employed a single air-to-air missile and observed the fireball of the exploding MIG. His actions directly ensured the safe return of all allied aircraft that night. The outstanding heroism and selfless devotion to duty displayed by Colonel Rodriguez reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.