Sgt. Maj. Rafael Rodriguez enlisted in the Marine Corps in Dec. 11, 1991, and graduated from recruit training March 6, 1992, from Kilo Company, 3d Recruit Training Battalion, on Parris Island, S.C. After graduation, he attended Marine Combat Training at Camp Geiger, N.C. Upon completion he reported to Field Artillery School in Fort Sill, Okla., for training to become a cannon crewman. After completion he reported to Lima Battery 3rd Battalion, 12th Marines, 3rd Marine Division, Okinawa, Japan. During his tour he deployed throughout Japan on numerous occasions. During this period he was promoted to the rank of lance corporal.
In September 1994, Rodriguez was reassigned to Alpha Battery, 1st Battalion, 11th Marines, 1st Marine Division, Camp Pendleton, Calif. In September 1995, Rodriguez deployed with Battalion Landing Team 3/1 to the western Pacific. During the deployment, Rodriguez participated in Operation Desert Storm, Kuwait Cease Fire and Operation United Shield/Restore Hope II in Somalia. During this period he was promoted to the rank of corporal.
In June of 1995, Rodriguez was reassigned to Lima battery 3rd Battalion, 12th Marines, 3rd Marine Division, Okinawa, Japan, as a section chief. While assigned to Lima Battery, Rodriguez deployed to Yausubetsu, Japan and Australia for Exercise Tandem Thrust. During this period he was promoted to the rank of sergeant.
In September of 1997, Rodriguez was reassigned to Fox Battery 2nd Battalion, 10th Marines, 2nd Marine Division Camp Lejeune, N.C., as a section chief and guns platoon sergeant. During this period Rodriguez was deployed with 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit 1/6 and 2/6 to the Mediterranean. While deployed, Rodriguez participated in Operation Dynamic Response. During this period Rodriguez was promoted to the rank of staff sergeant.
In September 2001, Rodriguez was assigned to attend Drill Instructor School on Parris Island, S.C. After completion, Rodriguez was assigned to Mike Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, where he served as a drill instructor, senior drill instructor, and series gunnery sergeant. During this period, Rodriguez was meritoriously promoted to the rank of gunnery sergeant.
In January 2004, Rodriguez reported to 1st Battalion, 12th Marines, 3rd Marine Division, in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii. There he served as battery gunnery sergeant for Headquarters and Service Battery and Charlie Battery. During this period, Rodriguez deployed to Thailand for Exercise Cobra Gold.
In June 2006, Rodriguez was promoted to first sergeant and assigned to Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines, 3rd Marine Division. In March 2007, Rodriguez deployed to Haditha in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
In January of 2008, Rodriguez reported to Echo Company, 2nd Recruit Training Battalion, on Parris Island, S.C., for duty as the company first sergeant. In June 2009, Rodriguez was appointed as the first sergeant of Drill Instructor School, on Parris Island, S.C.
In August 2010, Rodriguez attended the United States Army Sergeants Major Academy in El Paso, Texas. In July 2011, he was promoted sergeant major and assigned to 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division, in Twenty Nine Palms, Calif. While there he deployed to Sangin, Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. In August of 2014, Rodriguez served as the regimental sergeant major for Headquarters Regiment, 1st Marine Logistics Group. In December 2016, he was selected to be sergeant major for Marine Corps Recruit Depot and Eastern Recruiting Region, Parris Island, S.C.
Rodriguez personal awards include the Bronze Star Medal with two gold stars in lieu of third award, Meritorious Service Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with three gold stars in lieu of fourth award, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal with gold star in lieu of second award and the Combat Action Ribbon with gold star in lieu of 2nd award.