by Scott Prater
Two years ago, as he manufactured tools in a Rochester, N.Y., machine shop, Mark Rodriguez never imagined that he’d one day be responsible for the smooth operation of multiple satellite systems.
Not only has that scenario become a reality, but Airman 1st Class Mark Rodriguez has earned a distinguished award for the excellence he demonstrated while working as a scheduler for the 3rd Space Operations Squadron.
Airman Rodriguez beat out candidates from bases all over the state to earn 2009’s Colorado State Air Force Association Airman of the Year. He is one of three Schriever honorees this year. Staff Sergeant John Austin, 50th Space Communications Squadron, was named Non Commissioned Officer of the Year and Mr. Adam Edwards of the 4th Space Operations Squadron, earned Civilian (Category 2) of the Year.
On July 24, Airman Rodriguez traveled to Aurora, Colo. as a nominee. That night he traveled back home a winner, toting a trophy and the pride that comes along with a job well done.
“I was surprised, Airman Rodriguez said. “Just being nominated was enough for me, but this award included airmen from all over the state.”
He knew his job as a shift scheduler for 3rd SOPS was a brutally demanding and difficult assignment, and he was sure he had performed well during the seven months he was charged with the task.
“As a scheduler, you’re responsible for more than 100 personnel shifts every month,” Airman Rodriguez said. “You have to make sure there is 24/7 manning for the operation of these satellites. You’re also responsible for scheduling recurring training and multiple conflicts. For example, you have to make sure an operator is available when it’s time for his or her physical. We also scheduled for exercises and made contingency plans for times when someone couldn’t fill their shift.”
Airman Rodriguez said the job requires impeccable communication, accommodation and negotiation skills.
“You have to come in with the mindset that you’re mature enough to handle the job,” he said. “I knew I was coming in with the right frame of mind. That’s one of the reasons I was handpicked to do the job.”
It seems his superiors were impressed beyond measure.