Friday, January 11, 2013

A Stranger in a Familiar Land

by Senior Airman Wesley Wright
442nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Master Sgt. Victoriano Rodriguez, 23rd Fighter Group, Detachment 2, production supervisor, inspects components on an A-10 Thunderbolt II on Jan. 9, 2013. Rodriguez is part of the total force integration of active-duty Airmen into the Air Force Reserve. The 23rd FG, Detachment 2, is an A-10 Thunderbolt II active-duty unit at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. The detachment operates under the direction of the 442nd Fighter Wing, an A-10 Thunderbolt II Air Force Reserve unit at Whiteman AFB, Mo. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Wesley Wright) Hi-res

1/7/2013 - WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- Many Airmen return from overseas tours ith a few years under their ABU belt, but one active-duty Airman at the 23rd Fighter Group, Detachment 2, recently returned to the U.S. after more than two decades of overseas service.

Master Sgt. Victoriano C. Rodriguez, a Racine, Wis. native, recently came back to America to become the new production superintendent for Detachment 2, as part of the active-duty asociation that stood up here in October 2012.

"This is my first stateside base in about 21 years," he said. "It's definitely a culture shock for me and my family."

After serving in countries such as Japan, Korea, Italy and Germany, Rodriguez said he already misses many aspects of serving overseas, but he looks forward to getting to know his native soil again.

"One of the first things I did when I got here was research the town of Hermann (Mo.)," he said. "We plan on going there, and from what I've seen online, it looks just like Germany."

Rodriguez and his family were stationed at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany during his most recent overseas tour.

"We miss the foods," he said. "But, I've tried to bring as much as I can back with me - the foods, the beers and the wines. I will never regret the places I've been and the things I've done."

He said routine tasks such as paying for gas, setting up a home, and even going out to eat can be a totally different experience here in the U.S.

Rodriguez, the father of two school-age daughters, said this is the first time his children have lived in the United States. The size of the U.S. schools daunted them, he said, but they are adapting well to the change.

"They like Missouri," he said. "They transitioned really well, and I think it had to do with the location. The surrounding area is pretty much like the Spangdahlem community area, so it worked out pretty well."

He said the similarity in bases really helped his daughters adjust.

"Like Spagndahlem, Whiteman is in the country and there's not much around," he said. "It's fairly quiet and even the schools here are still fairly small, so it wasn't much of a change compared to what they're used to."

Rodriguez said security was the initial reason for staying overseas.

"One of the reasons I stayed overseas as long as I could, was I felt a safer environment for them in the schools overseas," he said. "After a while, it becomes an 'it's all you know' type of thing."

In addition to adapting to U.S. life, Rodriguez also has had to adapt at work. As an active-duty Airman, he said he is adjusting to how the Reserve and air reserve technicians work to get the job done.

"Working with the ARTs, and learning their language and routines, has definitely been something new," he said. "On top of that, I have been learning the traditional-reservist mentality and getting used to that."

Rodriguez said he is adjusting from active-duty work cycles, where operations can happen 24 hours a day.

He also said he is adjusting to the Reserve work-week, where the majority of training is conducted on unit training assembly weekends, and ARTs do the daily day-to-day operations through the week.

Rodriguez said he is very impressed with how the Reserve operates.

"Coming here and seeing the amount the amount of manning the Reserve side has and what they have been able to do with that, to me is amazing," he said. "With the active-duty force coming in, we're bringing some different experiences and hopefully alleviating some of that stress."

One full-time reservist who has noticed Rodriguez's efforts is Capt. James P. Chevalier, 442nd MXS operations officer.

"He has the ability to connect the dots," Chevalier said. "He has the opportunity to use his experience to see things in a new way."

Lt. Col. Joshua Ruddell, commander of 23rd FG, Detachment 2 here, said he had previously worked with Rodriguez at Spangdahlem, and was impressed with his work ethic.

"He is a good people person," Ruddell said. "Regardless of component, whether it's active-duty or Reserve, he knows how to get the job done."

Rodriguez said he plans on seeing the job through as long as he is here in his home country, the United States of America.

"This is a whole new chapter for us," Rodriguez said. "Having spent more of my life overseas than in the states, it's like coming back to another country and getting new experiences. We are happy to be here."


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