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NEWS | Sept. 17, 2021

Indo-Pacific Army Reserve officer completes prestigious Naval War College

By Spc. Sean McCallon 311th Signal Command (Theater)

Although she takes life as it comes, Lt. Col. Suzanne Rodriguez does not do anything halfway. Rodriguez, who currently serves as the deputy chief of operations for the G-3, 311th Signal Command (Theater), recently completed an 11-month course at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island.

Rodriguez’s selection as a resident for senior service college was one of 40 in the entire Army Reserve. Her option to choose which senior service college to attend gave Rodriguez the unique opportunity to select a sister service course for a different experience in higher military education. Coincidentally, Rodriguez’s selection as a candidate for a senior service college was a big surprise, as she had also previously submitted a package for battalion command.

“When the senior service college announcement came out, the email said, ‘congratulations,” Rodriguez said. “I was thinking it was the battalion command acceptance.”

Fortunately, Rodriguez’s battalion command package was also approved as she assumed command of the 1395th Deployment and Distribution Support Battalion (DDSB) in July of this year.

Rodriguez’s introduction to the military began while she was attending Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida, due to her love for the space program. She initially wanted to work with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) because she was interested in the safety aspect of aeronautics. In college, she joined Army Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC), earned her commission, and was selected for immediate active duty in the ordnance corps. Her plan at the time was to fulfill her minimum contract of four years on active duty, followed by four years in the individual ready reserve. That plan turned into an 18-year career.

Since then, Rodriguez has earned a Master of Science degree in aeronautics with a specialization in human factors, continuing her interest in flight safety. Additionally, upon graduating the Naval War College, Rodriguez earned a Master of Arts in National Security and Strategic Studies.

According to Rodriguez, having spent nearly a year away from home to attend the Naval War College was a challenge that can present itself to any Army Reserve Soldier. However, her supportive family, flexible civilian career, and previous mobilizations, made her absence from home easier, according to Rodriguez. Out of Rodriguez’s 18 years of service to the Army, approximately 14 of those years were on active duty, which also made it easier to cope with time away from family.

“I will certainly say that my husband is probably my number one cheerleader - I mean, he probably pushes me more than I push myself,” said Rodriguez.

The encouragement of her husband, along with her children, whom Rodriguez says are the most resilient pieces to the entire puzzle, is what allows her to keep pushing forward beyond the level of success that she has already achieved.

When asked why someone with her amount of success and experience would want to continue taking these courses, Rodriguez explained that it’s to continue making a difference in the lives of her Soldiers and those around her.

“If I can make a difference with just one person and every organization that I'm in, then I look at that as a success,” said Rodriguez.

She urges Soldiers and civilians to pursue what most interests them.

"You don’t know where your career will take you; just don’t do it for the wrong reasons,” Rodriguez said.

She tells her Soldiers who want to become officers not to do it for the money but to do it to make a difference.

Whether it’s her military education or civilian education, Rodriguez is always prepared for the next step. Meanwhile, she carries her passion for aeronautical safety and is hopeful that one day it will take her into a space command, applying all the experience she has picked up along the way.