Guardian of the Week – LCDR Joe Rodriguez

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Lieutenant Commander Joe Rodriguez, 2003
Lieutenant Commander Joe Rodriguez, 2003

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.

Jan. 14, 2009.  From left to right, Command Master Chief Darrick Dewitt, Lt. Cmdr Joe Rodriguez (ret.) and Rear Adm. Dean Lee display signed copies of the Deployable Operations Group’s Tactical Operator of the Year Awards.  The awards were recently named after Lt. Cmdr Rodriguez for his contributions to the Deployable, Specialized Force community.  (Coast Guard photo by Lt. James McLay)
Jan. 14, 2009. From left to right, Command Master Chief Darrick Dewitt, Lt. Cmdr Joe Rodriguez (ret.) and Rear Adm. Dean Lee display signed copies of the Deployable Operations Group’s Tactical Operator of the Year Awards. The awards were recently named after Lt. Cmdr Rodriguez for his contributions to the Deployable, Specialized Force community. (Coast Guard photo by Lt. James McLay)

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.

14 comments on “Guardian of the Week – LCDR Joe Rodriguez”

  1. I met Joe at Air Station Miami back in 1984 – we were just puppies back then, full of life and thrilled to be a part of such a wonderful organization. I will never forget Joe, his friendship, loyalty, coaching and countenance. Joe is an inspiration to us all, and I wish he and his family God’s mercy and grace.

  2. Mr. Rodriquez is among the best officers, leaders and human beings I have ever met. He set a great example and always treated me with dignity and respect. Sir, today you are at the very center of my prayers.

  3. LCDR Joe Rodriguez was my ASM Instructor, he was my inspiration as a leader and one motivated Rescue Swimmer. My family prays for your speedy recovery. We Love you Joe…

  4. LT Mclay – Thanks you for the heartfelt post on Joe “Cuervo” Rodriguez, who was my shipmate on the DIAT. For those that have not seen Joe recently, please try to do so. If you need visit ooordination info (in addition to the shimates at the DOG), you can contact Tim Ciampaglio, Howard Shaw, or Rich Arnold. You can contact me for their POC info if needed. Fair winds.

  5. Mr. Rodriguez is not a was, he “is” one of the pilars of the evolution of CG MLE and Specialized operations. Him and many of his peers from back in the days of DIAT and IMLET are and always will be inspirations to those who benefit from their experience and inovation. I did not get the chance to serve with him but many of his peers (now also retired) were mentors and always refered back to his leadership, it is good to see this type of recognition. “Mr. Joe, te llevamos en nuestras oraciones”

  6. LCDR Rodriguez is and always will be one of the founding forces in special operations in the Coast Guard.

  7. Joe was my CO at MSST 91102, and then into SRT-1. He IS the embodiment of a “quiet professional,” and instilled that mentality into his Guardians. I am blessed to know him. For those of us who pray, now is the time to lift his boys and family up.

  8. Thank you for all that you have done for your country. May God bless you and your famiy at this time and always. We are part of the “Coast Guard Family” our hearts go out to you.

  9. Joe was the CO of TACLET South when I was a Chief at one of his LEDETs. He always brought such a high-level of enthusiasm and passion to everything he did. Wheether he was speaking, listening, or getting himself throw around by his martial arts instructor, you could feel his energy, and intensity.

    He offered the best of himself to everyone, and wanted nothing more than for those around him to be the best!!!

    Joe will be in oour hearts and minds forever!1

    Bill Euefueno
    CWO (WEPS) Ret

  10. Joe Rod…I am proud to say I served with you (at two units). Please keep the watch over us.

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