PHOENIX –The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District now has a new Navy Reserve officer in its ranks of civilian employees. David Rodriguez, a field engineer with the District’s Arizona-Nevada Area Office, recently received his commission in the Reserves.
“The strength of our district will always be our people,” said Col. Mark Toy, the District commander. “David's commissioning exemplifies the quality and talent level of our district employees. We wish him the best as he continues to reach all of his personal and professional goals.”
Rodriguez, who has been with the District since 2010, spends most of his time in Nogales, Ariz. working on the Morley Ave. Drainage Tunnel project. The goal of the project is to build an access point to the Morley Ave. drainage tunnel similar to the one at Grand Ave. for the Customs and Border Protection Agency. The project began in March and should be done later this summer. His path to becoming a Navy Ensign has taken a bit longer.
“Being a first-generation American, there wasn’t a lot of talk about college when I was younger,” Rodriguez explained. “Finally, in high school, my guidance counselor asked me where I was planning to go to college. When I told her I didn’t really plan on it, she got to work.”
His counselor was married to an Army Sgt. Major and she dealt with service academy nominations throughout Arizona. At the time, Rodriguez was interested in a career in law enforcement and his counselor asked if he would consider an appointment to the Coast Guard Academy.
“I didn’t know much about the military at the time,” he said. “All I knew was that it was a chance to have my college paid for and chance to have a career that would lead to another career in law enforcement.”
He agreed and ended up receiving an appointment. Shortly into his university career, the United States was hit with the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
“At the time, the Coast Guard wasn’t doing much of the missions overseas,” Rodriguez said. “I wanted to have the chance to do my part. I think my generation felt this was their call to action. But, I knew I would be leaving a good career behind.”
After many discussions with instructors, chaplains and others, Rodriquez decided to leave the Academy. He tendered his letter of resignation and left for a career in the Marine Corps. It was tough going. He said the Marines didn’t understand why anyone would leave a service academy, turn down an opportunity to serve as a Marine Corps officer, since he had declined that option to his recruiter, and push to join as an enlisted infantryman. After the investigation and time in the Delayed Entry Program, Rodriguez finally went into the Marines and served from 2003 to 2007. He served a tour in Iraq, in the Philippines and had a tour in Japan. When he completed his enlisted obligation, he returned to college and used his G.I. Bill benefits to graduate with his Civil Engineering degree from Arizona State University in 2010.
At the same time, he had signed on with the Los Angeles District as a Department of the Army intern and began the process of receiving a commission in the U.S. Navy reserves. He said the intern program involved a lot of travel and temporary duty. However, through the travel slowed the pace of his commissioning, it didn’t diminish his desire for service.
“I’m doing this strictly for the service,” Rodriguez said. “I did start my engineering career at 30, so I’m an old new engineer. Hopefully, being with the Seabees can help speed up the learning process.”
As a Department of Defense civilian in the Army, Rodriguez’s choice to enter the Navy Reserve might seem odd. However, he feels it ties in well with his background.
“I wanted to stay in the naval traditions I learned while in the Marine Corps so this is a nice logical lateral move for me,” he explained. “I’m really glad to be a Seabee.”
Rich Fontanilla, area engineer for the Arizona-Nevada Area Office, said he was ready for Rodriguez to join Construction Division while the new Ensign was still in the intern program.
“David fits the mold for what we were looking for,” Fontanilla said. “He takes the initiative on tasks, has a strong desire to learn and grow and he is highly dedicated to duty. A lot of our CBP projects are out in isolated, austere back country. Given David's prior service as a Marine Infantryman who fought in Iraq, I had no doubt David would be an excellent fit for administering the CBP projects.”
Rodriguez said he plans to complete at least 20 years in the Navy along with his career in the Corps of Engineers. He begins drilling with a Seabee unit at the Navy Operational Support Center on Luke Air Force Base this summer.