Rodriguez is Marine of the Year

Debra Vaughn photo
Sgt. Frank Rodriguez Jr. stands next to one of the Prowler engines that he teaches other Marines to fix. He was named Marine of the Year for his strong work ethic.


No one is more surprised about the new Marine of the Year than the man who took the honors, Sgt. Frank Rodriguez Jr.

He teaches young Marines how to fix EA-6B Prowler engines as an instructor at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island’s Center for Naval Aviation Technical Training Unit. The Marines plan to continue flying Prowlers for a few more years.

“It’s definitely unreal,” he said. “I’m like, wow, I didn’t think anybody noticed. I was just doing my job and making sure it got done right.”

His bosses noticed.

“He’s got the best work ethic I’ve seen, especially in a young sergeant,” said Master Gunnery Sgt. Ken Owens.

Rodriguez puts in long hours and takes on tasks outside of his regular duties. He’s a skillful teacher and a Marine with impeccable integrity, Owens said.

Rodriguez, originally from Corpus Christi, Texas, decided he wanted to join the military after Sept. 11. He was a senior in high school, and he wanted to do something for his country.

He enlisted with delayed entry, but it ended up being far more delayed than he intended because he broke his arm in an ATV accident. The Marines wouldn’t take him until he had surgery to remove a metal plate from his arm.

He also began dating his future wife, Ida, and soon a baby was on the way. He was working at an auto detailing shop, trying to scrape by before finally entering boot camp at age 21.

Rodriguez was transferred to NAS Whidbey in 2011. He and his wife have four boys.

He loves his job and would like to stay in the Marines for his entire career. But he’s reached the ceiling of how long he can stay in his job without a promotion, and there may not be a slot open when he needs it.

For that reason, he said he thinks it might have been better for a younger Marine to take the honor.

Marine of the Year comes with some perks, including a prime parking spot at his workplace. The blue sign in front of the parking space says “SOY” — short for Sailor of the Year. Rodriguez joked he’d like to paint it red and replace it with “MOY.”

All the winners receive gift certificates from local businesses, which the family appreciates with four boys to buy Christmas gifts for. He was also presented with a model of a Prowler and pins for his boys, who were proud of their father and excited to wear them, said Ida Rodriguez.

Rodriguez was honored along with Logistic Specialist 1st Class Rosmond L. Shaw, Sea Sailor of the Year, and Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Wayne Papalski, Shore Sailor of the Year.

The Oak Harbor Navy League and Rotary Club hosted an award luncheon at the Officers’ Club in December.

A panel of five master chiefs reviewed submissions from individual commands at NAS Whidbey Island, grading them separately before gathering to review them for a decision. A 100-point system was used to evaluate the nominees and it was close, said Master Chief Patrick McCullough, who served on the panel.

“If we could give it to every one of them, we definitely would have because that’s just how tight the competition was.”