MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. --
As a cost analyst at Marine Corps Systems Command, José Rodríguez knows what it means to be connected to a greater mission as he helps Marines get the gear they need.
“Working for [the Training Systems program office], we are nurturing people in a way that they are able to come home to their loved ones because they are fully trained to protect our country,” he said.
With encouragement and support from the command, Rodriguez brings that same passion to the Orlando community where he serves as an Episcopal priest at Iglesia Episcopal Jesús de Nazaret.
Although it is rare in the Episcopal Church for a priest to have two careers, Rodríguez chose to work at TRASYS because his job goes hand-in-hand with his mission as a priest. He said he realizes the numbers and spreadsheets he works with as a Cost Analyst are connected to something greater – procuring, acquiring and developing training systems that will keep Marines safe. In both careers, it is his mission to care about the people he serves.
“My faith informs me that I am to love my neighbor, and while I’m at work, loving my neighbor means I have to make sure our Marines are equipped to not only fight the fight, but be equipped to survive, do their job and come back safely,” he said. “Sadly, fights are inevitable and a reality in this world, but I want every man and woman in our armed forces to know what it’s like to come home and hug their loved ones.”
Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in September 2017, causing destruction and devastation that left victims homeless and hungry. As a Puerto Rican and a person of faith, Rodríguez said he felt connected to the mission of helping displaced families. Since the storm, he raised nearly $300,000 and was recently invited to speak to Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy on behalf of Puerto Rican evacuee families displaced in Orlando, including military families. They discussed issues with hunger, housing and education.
“Human need and suffering knows no religion, knows no ethnicity, and it knows no gender—we’re just out there helping people who need it,” said Rodríguez.
Rodríguez said he remembers being a child and leaving Puerto Rico and moving to Orlando. His family learned English and had to rely on assistance to help cover bills and put food on the table, so he wanted to pay it forward and help other families who need the same support. Since the hurricane, more than 297,000 Puerto Ricans have moved through Florida, and at least 50,000 have settled in Orlando.
“Many people needed food and clothing, along with help finding jobs and apartments,” said Rodríguez. “These people lost everything and will eventually be plugging into our community, possibly even as my future coworkers.”
Because of this, it was important to Rodríguez to have a career that offered balance with his religious vocation and desire to serve others. As long as he completes his duties for Marines in his day job, he said his MCSC team is always supportive, allowing him to take the time off he needs to serve the community.
“Jose is a tremendous asset to PM TRASYS, and his diligence in cost analysis avoids a lot of cost in our acquisition programs,” said Col. Walt Yates, program manager for TRASYS. “He is also one of the most active civic volunteers I have seen and devotes a lot of time to charitable causes through his ministerial work as an ordained clergy.”
Rodríguez’s uncle, father and brother all served in the military. His grandfather was a civil servant for the Army. While he did not feel called to military service, one of his life goals was to become a civil servant and support the nation. He said one of the things that encouraged him to help Hurricane Maria victims to the extent he has was when the Orlando community rallied around military families evacuated from United States Army Garrison Fort Buchanan in Puerto Rico. He saw how supportive his TRASYS leaders were and felt empowered to continue his mission of serving the community by combining efforts with his colleagues.
“Many people in our office volunteer within the community,” said Rodríguez. “It feels really great to know that others care, and they want to hear about the work I’m doing to help out in any way they can.”
Although the military was providing displaced families with a roof, shelter and food, Yates and other Orlando military leaders took up the charge to start a clothing and toy drive to help military children. This gave Rodríguez further confirmation that TRASYS is a work environment in which he can continue to thrive professionally and personally.
“We spend the majority of our time with our coworkers, and I feel that they all really go out of their way to make our relationships dive deeper than just products and services for the warfighter,” he said. “MCSC leadership connects us on a human level, not only with each other, but with our community as well.”