JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas –
A Gold Star Family Member spent the day with military working dog trainers at the 341st Training Squadron at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland Dec. 21. After losing his father at 7 years old, it was always his dream to experience the work his father did to serve the nation.
Airman 1st Class Zachary Rodriguez, who joined the Air Force in November 2021, is an F-35 Mechanical Apprentice Crew Chief for the 61st Aircraft Maintenance Unit at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona.
His father, Army Sgt. 1st Class Gregory Rodriguez, was a Special Operations dog handler, and was killed in Ana Kalay, Afghanistan, on Sept. 2, 2008, while serving in Operation Enduring Freedom. He was assigned to the K-9 unit of the 527th Military Police Company, 709th Military Police Battalion, 18th Military Police Brigade, in Ansbach, Germany.
Personnel from the 341st TRS and the 701st Military Police Battalion, an Army detachment, started the morning with Zachary by doing a “Hero Workout of the Day” to honor his father.
“A lot of times I’m overwhelmed with emotion, so it’s hard to say a lot of words,” said Laura Rodriguez, Zachary’s mother, at the end of the workout. “I’m good at lecturing my kids, I’m good at lecturing my patients, but as a Gold Star Spouse, I don’t always have the words to say. All of this is really meaningful to our family.”
Zachary said he knew he wanted to join the military at 5 years old because of his father.
“Seeing him do his job was so cool,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to be like my dad, and at the same time, be my own self. In fact, I drive the Jeep he bought in Germany. I got it for my 18th birthday.”
Zachary spent the rest of the day with 341st TRS personnel doing military working dog training, such as patrol, detection, and obedience work.
He experienced being the “bait” for an MWD by doing bite work; conducted a building search; and trained a dog to scout in an open field, which are all part of patrol work.
“I had a great time. I barely slept at all last night,” he said. “I was so excited for this, but at the same time nervous. I do like to see and follow my dad’s footsteps and see what he did. I think this was a really cool experience.”
The visit ended with a ceremony at the Military Working Dog Teams National Monument, attended by 341st TRS personnel, 701st Military Police Battalion personnel, Zachary’s mother and two sisters, Malorie and Charlie.
Zachary and his family are Gold Star Family Members. Gold Star family members are those who lost a loved one in military service supporting combat operations or from terrorist activities.
The 341st TRS falls under the 37th Training Group and is responsible for training and developing K9 professionals and MWDs to enhance the Department of Defense's global warfighting capability.