Lieutenant General John Rosa

Recipient of South Carolina's Highest Civilian Honor, the Order of the Palmetto

by Melissa LaScaleia

John William Rosa Jr. was born in Springfield, Illinois on September 28, 1951. He grew up in Jacksonville, Florida and earned a football scholarship to attend The Citadel: The Military College of South Carolina, in Charleston. He played as starting quarterback beginning his sophomore year in college, and was also a member of ROTC. He joined the U.S. Air Force in 1973 after graduation.

John completed his pilot training at Craig Air Force Base, in Alabama; then completed his fighter training at Holloman Air Force Base, in New Mexico. The trajectory of his schooling, military accomplishments, and career reveals a lifetime of achievements and dedication to those he served.

He graduated from the Air Force Squadron Officer School; Air Command and Staff CollegeU.S. Army Command and General Staff College; and U.S. Army War College. He attended the Instructor Course of the USAF Weapons School. He has a master’s degree in public administration from Golden Gate University which he earned in 1985, and graduated from the Program for Senior Executives in National and International Security Management at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

John was initially stationed at the Myrtle Beach Air Force Base in South Carolina. From July 1975 to August 1980, he flew the LTV A-7 Corsair II and the Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II with the 354th Tactical Fighter Wing. He was also stationed with the 56th Tactical Fighter Wing at MacDill Air Force Base, in Florida, where he flew the General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon. From 1980 to 1983, he served on an exchange tour with the Royal Air Force, and flew both Hunter and Jaguar aircraft at the RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland.

During his long and illustrious military career, Lieutenant General John William Rosa Jr. had numerous command positions. Those include the 35th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Kunsan Air Base, in South Korea; the 366th Operations Support Squadron in Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho; 49th Operations Group at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico; 20th Fighter Wing, Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina; and the 347th Rescue Wing, Moody Air Force Base, Georgia.

John also served on staff assignments at Pacific Air Forces, the U.S. Air Force headquarters, and was Deputy Director for Operations on the Joint Staff, Washington, D.C. 

He led the National Military Command Center at the Pentagon during the September 11 attacks, and served as spokesman for the Joint Chiefs as U.S. troops deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq. 

He also served as Commandant of the Air Command and Staff College. His last military assignment was as the sixteenth Superintendent of the United States Air Force Academy, a position he held from July 2003 until he retired from active duty in 2005. 

He then accepted the position of president of The Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina, where he served for twelve years before retiring in 2018.

As a pilot, Lieutenant General Rosa has logged more than 3,600 flying hours. His many awards and medals include: U.S. Air Force Command Pilot Badge; Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Identification Badge; Air Force Distinguished Service Medal; Defense Superior Service Medal; Legion of Merit with one bronze oak leaf cluster; Meritorious Service Medal with four oak leaf clusters; Air Force Commendation Medal; Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with two silver and one bronze oak leaf clusters; Air Force Organizational Excellence Award; Combat Readiness Medal with two oak leaf clusters; National Defense Service Medal with two bronze service stars; Air Force Overseas Short Tour Service Ribbon; Air Force Overseas Long Tour Service Ribbon; Air Force Longevity Service Award with one silver and two bronze oak leaf clusters; Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon; Air Force Training Ribbon.

He was presented with the state’s highest civilian honor in 2018, the Order of the Palmetto, by South Carolina’s Governor Henry McMaster.

He is married to Donna Kangeter, a Charleston native. They have two sons, Jonathan and Brad (both graduates of The Citadel), and three grandchildren.

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