Born in the United States, raised in Mexico, one man advises Afghans

24 May 2012 | Lance Cpl. Mark Garcia

Growing up in Mexico, Sgt. Noel Rodriguez knew he wanted to experience the world and the various cultures in it.

Rodriguez, a guide with Animal Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, from Denver, was born in California. When he was one his mother moved him down to Mexico where he spent the majority of his youth growing up. Once he was 14 years old Rodriguez moved again, this time to Colorado where a few of his brothers lived at the time. Spanish became his first language and English his second.

His ability to learn multiple languages has helped him learn a little bit of Farsi, making it easier to communicate with Afghan National Army soldiers who he is charged to advise.

“Just in general, he’s a very personable and likeable guy to begin with,” said 2nd Lt. Andrew Darlington, the officer in charge for Advisor Team 4, Animal Company, 1st Bn., 7th Marines, from New Orleans. “He’s a natural fit for the advisor mission because he has the ability to pick up languages very quickly and appreciate different cultures.”

Rodriguez is currently serving on his fifth deployment. He was deployed to Iraq three times and went on one deployment with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit where he was able to visit multiple countries. During his second deployment to Iraq, he served in the battle of Al Najaf with Charlie Company, 1st Bn., 4th Marines.

Before enlisting in the Marine Corps during August 2002, Rodriguez’s brothers offered to pay for his college but Rodriguez wanted to pave his own path.

“At the time I was still in high school,” Rodriguez said. “I mean my brothers were offering to pay for my college but I kind of wanted that to come about from my own work. I thought joining the Marine Corps would be a good way to show that I was able to support myself and pay for my own school. I wanted to prove to everyone, and more importantly myself, that I could be independent and make it on my own.”

Rodriguez has already decided to make a full career out of the Marine Corps and enjoys his current job.

“I like my job because I get to learn about the whole tradition of what’s going on over here in Afghanistan,” Rodriguez said. “Every time we go on a mission, the ANA is usually the main effort and we always get to be with them. Dealing with the ANA you get a whole picture of Afghanistan because they come from all over the country, so it’s kind of like the Marine Corps where you have people from every single state. It’s a big variety of Afghans in the ANA and you get to see how they are. I really enjoy learning about other people’s traditions.”

While Rodriguez enjoys working with the ANA he continues to miss his wife and four daughters.

“I miss my wife and children but I try not to think about it,” Rodriguez said. “I try to stay busy because time is going to fly as long as you’re busy. I just have to find something to do to keep my mind occupied so that I don’t focus on the negative to much.”

Rodriguez’s daily tasks include conducting partnered patrols with the ANA, advising and mentoring them and continuing to look after the welfare of his own Marines.