MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Virginia -- style="margin: 0in 0in 10pt;">Andy Rodgers spent Halloween weekend at Parris Island, South Carolina, for his nephew’s graduation from boot camp. Rodgers didn’t offer any advice. Instead, he was interested in what his nephew had to say, how he felt—apart from wanting to get as far away from Parris Island as he could, a feeling Rodgers remembers well.
“On March 4, 1987, the only thought on my mind was getting off that island,” said Rodgers.
These days, Rodgers thinks mostly of Marines like his nephew and how to best equip them, now that he is deputy program manager for Combat Support Systems at Marine Corps Systems Command, the acquisition command for the Marine Corps.
Rodgers is in a special position. Having been an active-duty Marine, the epitome of those honored on Veterans Day, he continues to serve those following in his footsteps. His is a legacy formed in youth and sharpened by years of military discipline.
“It’s our job to make sure we’re giving them what they need,” Rodgers said. “If we work 12-, 16-, 24-hour days, it doesn’t matter.”
Rodgers knew hard work from an early age. His first job was as a paperboy at 12 in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and he’s had a job ever since.
But when the time came for college, Rodgers didn’t have the grades, and career choices were slim until he met a Marine recruiter.
“If I hadn’t gone into the Marines, I probably would have done a few semesters at community college then gone to work for the railroad,” he said. “But my recruiter loved me because I loved being challenged physically—I’d been riding up hills with 60 pounds of newspapers for years—and they guaranteed me a job if I enlisted, so I did.”
What Rodgers’ recruiter did not guarantee him past his first job as a Huey and Cobra avionics technician was that he was be selected for the Broadened Opportunity for Officer Selection and Training program, then the Marine Corps Enlisted Commissioning Educational Program, or that he would get into college and become a Marine Corps officer. Becoming a motor transport officer after being in avionics while enlisted was the one downside of commissioning, according to Rodgers. But even that turned up roses eventually.
“I managed to go from avionics to the ground side, to a motor transport officer, and I thought my life was over,” Rodgers said. “But I got a lot of good opportunities out of it. My first duty station as an officer was in 1996 with 2nd Tanks within 2nd Marine Division. I had 100 Marines with five staff noncommissioned officers and an outstanding chief warrant officer. That’s a company size organization as a 2nd lieutenant.”
His experience as a motor transportation officer even earned Rodgers the opportunity to help with the highest priority Marine Corps acquisition goals in recent years—protecting Marines from improvised explosive devices.
“I came to MCSC to be a project officer for smart cards, and when I got here, I was moved to the Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement office then to the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle office,” Rodgers said. “That was in 2003 when Operation Iraqi Freedom was warming up and we realized the need to bring HMMWVs up to speed for combat. Then down the line we started seeing improvised explosive devices.”
Rodgers, then a major, was part of the team that brought the Marine Armor Kit to the HMMWV, which he estimates saved lives in the thousands, including that of a captain who sought him out at MCSC.
“He got hit by an IED, then another one went off after he stuck part of his head over the wall that was part of our armor kit,” Rodgers said. “He lost an eye but you could see the line on his face where the armor shielded the rest of his head. He stopped by to thank me for being able to return home to see his daughter again.”
Rodgers transitioned from the HMMWV program to the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Joint Program Officer in 2007. That fall, he retired from the Marine Corps after twenty-one years of service, returning as a civilian Marine to support MRAP and the M-ATV Program.
Again, Rodgers was at the center of an undertaking that saved countless Marine lives. This time, it set the new benchmark for urgent acquisition. But what Rodgers found important was keeping Marines—his Marines—safe.
“That was my peer group,” he said. “Those [Marines] will be my nephew’s peers and the peers of my kids and their kids. I always have them in mind.”
One of Rodgers’s own peer group from his first trip to Parris Island is Scott Reichert, assistant product manager of Engineering for Tactical Communication Systems within Marine Air-Ground Task Force Command, Control and Communications.
The two were in the same Platoon at boot camp, and Reichert bumped into Rodgers a few years ago during an event at MCSC.
“When he called my name out, I didn’t even need to turn around to know who it was,” Reichert said. “I knew the fit was perfect for him here, where he can still work for and with Marines.”