The presentation of the award will take place during The Wings Club Foundation’s Annual Meeting, slated for March 30, at The Yale Club in New York City.
Rock began his life-long love affair with aviation, particularly flying, upon his enlisting in the United States Air Force in July 1950. In March 1952, Rock was accepted for pilot training in an “experimental” program established by the Air Force.
In September 1953 he was commissioned a 2nd Lt. and awarded his Air Force Pilot Wings. He was assigned to Korea, Okinawa, Formosa (Taiwan), Arizona, Alabama, California, Japan, Nevada, Thailand, Virginia, Kansas, and Florida, and also served temporary duty in several other countries and states.
During these assignments he flew 11 different military aircraft, mostly fighters, including the North American F-80, F-86 and F-100, the Lockheed F-104, The Republic F-105 and the McDonnell Douglas F-4. He logged more than 4,500 total military flying hours almost all in fighter type aircraft, including 489 hours combat time.
In March 1965, Rock received a new assignment to the Wild Weasel program to begin in June 1966. After completing training missions in Wild Weasel (WW) configured F-105F aircraft at a North American Aviation facility located at Long Beach International Airport on June 19, 1966, he departed for Thailand. He arrived at Korat RTAFB (Royal Thailand Air Force Base) in late June and was reassigned to the 355th TFW at Takhli RTAFB. Rock was the very first Wild Weasel pilot assigned to Takhli.
The Weasels’ mission was to seek out and engage North Vietnamese surface-to-air (SAM) sites and destroy them. Often times, the only way the Weasel pilots could locate a SAM site was to get the North Vietnamese to fire a SAM at them, revealing their position. The Wild Weasel missions were among the most dangerous sorties of the Vietnam War.
Rock completed his first Weasel combat tour in February 1967, and returned to the States and an assignment to Headquarters Tactical Air Command, Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, where he was initially the chief of The Avionics Branch, Fighter Requirements.
On Dec. 15, 1970, Rock was installed as the Commander of the 561st. On April 1, 1972, Tactical Air Command (TAC) initiated operation Constant Guard and the 561st was the first unit to deploy aircraft to Korat RTAFB in support of the renewed bombing of North Vietnam.
Rock later volunteered to take over the 17th Wild Weasel Squadron, PACAFs only F-105 Wild Weasel unit. While at Korat, he was selected for promotion to full Colonel and became the Wing Assistant Deputy Commander for Operations.
In June 1973, he completed his second Wild Weasel combat tour and was assigned to Eglin AFB in Florida, as the Deputy Chief of Staff For Electronic Warfare, Reconnaissance, and Remotely Piloted Vehicles.
Rock retired from the USAF in 1977, and returned to his home town of Dixon, Ill., where he was employed as Chief Pilot and Engineering Test Supervisor, Woods Division of Heston Corporation. In 1983, he began working for McDonnell Douglas in St. Louis and remained there as first a Principal Technical Specialist, then went on to become the Manager of Engineering until his retirement in 1997.
Rock has earned more than 50 military awards and decorations, including two Silver Stars, The Legion of Merit, three Distinguished Flying Crosses, and 16 Air Medals.
He published “First In, Last Out, Stories by The Wild Weasels,” is co-holder of two US patents, and holds a commercial single and multi-engine pilots license.
The Wings Club Foundation’s Outstanding Aviator Award has been presented annually since 2010. The first recipients honored were the Tuskegee Airmen, followed by the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP), the Doolittle Raiders, Patty Wagstaff, Robert A. “Bob” Hoover and Suzanna Darcy-Hennemann.