Lt. Col. Juan Rodriguez of the Puerto Rico Wing is now Civil Air Patrol’s national diversity officer, replacing Col. Liz Sydow, who recently became commander of CAP’s Virginia Wing.
Maj. Gen. Mark Smith, CAP’s national commander and CEO, announced the appointment, saying, “With his unique work/life experience, I am confident Lt. Col. Rodriguez is the right person for this important staff position. As national diversity officer, he will work with the command team to ensure CAP’s diversity efforts continue to evolve and flourish.”
Under Smith’s leadership, CAP has identified diversity, inclusion and equity as critical as members grow and carry out missions in the communities they serve. Rodriguez will serve as a representative for the national commander, participating in the decision-making process on all diversity issues.
“Lt. Col. Rodriguez has already been in the business of contributing to this effort,” Smith said. “As the Southeast Region’s diversity officer and national deputy diversity officer, he has worked diligently with others to make sure CAP is available to a broad range of people, and that everyone — our cadets and our adult members — have the opportunity to be successful in their volunteer experience.”
Rodriguez, a resident of Carolina, Puerto Rico, is eager to lead the effort. “I am humbled, honored and excited to serve as national diversity officer,” he said.
“I will continue working with the national staff, region and wing diversity officers in implementing processes, providing training opportunities, increasing awareness and expanding strategic partnerships that result in a more diverse, inclusive and equitable organization for all.”
His professional career in operations management has prepared him for this latest challenge. He has worked and lived in North America, Central America, South America and the Caribbean, including English-speaking West Indian territories. Over the past 30 years, he has managed or supported operations for companies and businesses with clients in 130 countries. Such multicultural exposure has provided him with a wealth of opportunities to learn about and manage cultural, religious, ethnic and other diversity factors.
He is fluent in English and Spanish as native languages and has entry-level knowledge of French.
Rodriguez’ CAP career is equally impressive. He joined CAP as a cadet in 1977 in the Puerto Rico Wing and earned the cadet program’s top honor, the Gen. Carl A. Spaatz Award, in 1980.
His CAP senior service, beginning in 1983, evolved at both the squadron and wing levels, including service as a cadet programs officer, aerospace education officer, squadron commander, emergency services officer, wing finance officer and adviser to the wing commander.
More recently, he served as the Puerto Rico Wing’s liaison to the Puerto Rico Emergency Management Agency and the Federal Emergency Management Agency during the Hurricane Maria response. That service continued in responses to tropical storms in 2019 as well as the earthquakes and COVID-19 emergency in 2020.
In his service over the past year as the Southeast Region diversity officer and later as the national deputy diversity officer, Rodriguez has participated in Southeast Region staff meetings, providing awareness of diversity and inclusion topics, and coordinated efforts of the region’s diversity officers.
He also assisted his predecessor, Sydow, in preparing for CAP Board of Governor briefings, preparing for Strategic Plan updates for the national commander, completing CAP’s diversity plan for 2021, and completing the final draft of CAP’s diversity regulation in addition to other duties such as conducting region and wing diversity officer meetings and conducting training workshops with aerospace education, cadet programs and CAP-U.S. Air Force (CAP-USAF) personnel, among others within the organization.
In addition, he presented the diversity section of the onboarding training for new Board of Governors members and participated in the Cadet Programs Youth Conference and California Wing Cadet Conference. He is also enrolled in the University of South Florida Diversity and Inclusion Certificate Program.
That recent experience has also prepared Rodriguez for his new role. “One of my objectives as national diversity officer will be ensuring that whether we are planning emergency services, cadet programs or aerospace education activities and events, diversity, inclusion and equity becomes an integral part of the process,” he said. “I will also work closely with our Recruiting and Retention team in identifying and providing tools which will help our units when recruiting new and diverse members in their local communities.”
Rodriguez holds master’s degrees in professional management and operations, graduating with honors, from the University of Miami Graduate School of Business and the Bank Administration Institute Operations program at the University of Wisconsin’s Graduate School of Business. He also has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Interamerican University of Puerto Rico.
He is engaged to Vanessa Gonzalez, a registered pharmacist, and the couple has four children. They welcomed their first grandchild, Victoria Isabel, in January.