Post Written by Lieutenant James Mclay, Public Affairs Officer at the Coast Guard Deployable Operations Group (DOG)
LCDR Joe Rodriguez, U.S. Coast Guard (retired), is not your average Guardian. Shortly after his retirement in 2006, LCDR Rodriguez was diagnosed with an inoperable, malignant brain tumor. Today, this valiant warrior is engaged in the toughest battle of his life.
Growing up in Long Island, New York, LCDR Rodriguez’ penchant for adventure took him down a path best expressed by the term “Not your Father’s Coast Guard.” He enlisted in the Coast Guard in 1980, became one of the service’s first helicopter rescue swimmers and later attended officer candidate school.
After receiving his commission in 1990, his fluency in Spanish and aptitude for high risk-missions made him a perfect fit for the Drug Interdiction Assist Team (DIAT). During the 1980’s, the DIAT was at the very forward end of the Coast Guard’s counter drug mission, with members often deployed to the most remote areas of South and Central America to discover, disrupt and destroy illegal narcotics at the source. LCDR Rodriguez received a Meritorious Service Medal for his service, which included assisting a wounded narco-trafficer and allowing him to be brought to justice. LCDR Rodriguez’ meritorious work, as well as a fair amount of acclaim, was seen nationally on the television show, “Cops.”
LCDR Rodriguez later served as the assistant operations officer at Group Miami, assistant school chief at the Maritime Law Enforcement Academy and on served on the staff at the Office of Counter-terrorism at Coast Guard Headquarters. His operational commands included CO/XO of Tactical Law Enforcement Team South, CO of the Special Operations Training Group (SOTG) at Camp Lejeune and CO (and plankowner) of Maritime Safety and Security Team Chesapeake (91102).
While serving at the SOTG, he became the first (and to this date the only) Coast Guardsman ever to command a Marine Corps unit. LCDR Rodriguez’s assignments also enabled him to receive some of the most cutting-edge training available in the military. LCDR Rodriguez went on to graduate from Marine Corps Amphibious Recon School, Marine Corps Sniper School and the U.S. Army’s “Jump” School. He was also a black belt in Shito Ryu karate, a Japanese fighting style developed in Okinawa.
LCDR Rodriguez’ “quiet warrior” personality became an invaluable commodity in the post-September 11, 2001 Coast Guard. His skills were quickly tapped to develop, commission and command the east coast’s first maritime anti-terrorism unit, MSST 91102. His interagency, and intra-Coast Guard professionalism greatly enhanced the reputation of the Coast Guard as the premier maritime law enforcement agency in the federal government. He was a tireless proponent of Coast Guard tactical law enforcement and a subject matter expert on the Advanced Interdiction mission long before the service formally organized this capability.
To honor this legendary Guardian and his contributions to the Coast Guard and the nation, the Coast Guard’s Deployable Operations Group (DOG) named its Tactical Operator of the Year award after him. LCDR Rodriguez was also invited to present the award for the first time under the new name at the DOG’s May 2010 CO’s conference.