Back to the Bulldog Battalion
Growing up in a military family, there was no question in Lieutenant Colonel Eduardo “Ed” Rodriguez’s (’98) mind when it came to serving his country.
“My dad was a career military officer,” Rodriguez recalled. “He flew Hueys most of the time and bounced around the world. I knew I wanted to do something in the military, so I enlisted in the reserves in the National Guard and competed in high school for an ROTC scholarship.”
It was a call from Spokane to the Rodriguez home in San Diego that sealed it. A cadet from the Reserve Officer Training Corps at Gonzaga University was on the line.
“I’d never heard of it before,” Rodriguez laughed, “but my parents were getting ready to move overseas and we had family in Washington state—plus, when I came to visit campus, I knew right away this was the place for me.”
Rodriguez experienced the full impact of the Bulldog Battalion and some of its most influential leaders, who all played inspiring and formational roles in Rodriguez’ life then and now.
“Back then, Sargent Richard Wood was the motivator when cadets were out running,” remembered Rodriguez. “The story was that he had a lung removed, so he’d say to us, ‘don’t let me beat you!’ and we’d pick up the pace.”
Rodriguez’s experiences with the Bulldog Battalion were full of memorable moments like that. He recalled a training exercise in Riverside State Park when a pyrotechnic was accidentally discharged, setting fire to a hillside. Training was suspended for the day as Rodriguez and the other cadets dug fire breaks with trenching tools and shovels waiting for the fire department to arrive. It was moments like that that helped forge lifelong connections among Bulldog Battalion cadets year after year.
“I’m still in contact with many of them,” said Rodriguez, “and we’ve seen each other periodically throughout the years—I’m sure a lot of programs are that way, but there’s something unique about Gonzaga in terms of how we connect and stay connected. I think it’s in what drives us—for the most part, people who come to Gonzaga University and go through the ROTC program here are motivated by service…those who want to serve are the ones attracted here.”
Service was a strong motivator for Rodriguez, who, in addition to his service with ROTC while he was a student at Gonzaga, was part of the Knights service organization. It was also a major factor in his decision to return to his Alma Mater to teach and lead the Military Science department. Rodriguez’s 24-year military career, like his father’s, took him all over the world. But no matter where he went, Spokane maintained a special place in his heart. He had been a professor in a program on the East Coast for a few years, and when the job opened up at Gonzaga, he jumped at the chance.
“To be part of shaping these cadets, to lead and provide inspiration to others—it was an easy decision to make,” admitted Rodriguez. “There are 274 host programs in ROTC with more than 1,000 different campuses involved, and I can tell you that Gonzaga is in a special category. The people produced from this program and what they go on to do in their careers, their communities and their networks make Gonzaga quite a success story.”
Lt. Col. Rodriguez alongside Bulldog Battalion cadet Kayla Rambo (Whitworth University) at Camp Seven Mile.
Looking to the future, Rodriguez would like to see the ROTC program at Gonzaga grow in alignment with the University’s enrollment growth. He’d also like for more students, faculty and staff to join the Bulldog Battalion’s training every so often so that the community could become more involved in the good things going on here.
“When I was a cadet,” recalled Rodriguez, “we used to repel off campus buildings. We’d throw a rope over the side of Welch, anchor, and people seemed to like watching that.”
At the same time, Rodriguez wants to balance perceptions about the program.
“We’re not a club,” he said. “I would love for more of the campus population to understand that it’s not just about the ‘ROTC kids’ out taking part in fun and games—this is a life-changing program that produces leaders ready for adventure all over the world.”
As the Bulldog Battalion celebrates its 75th year, Rodriguez expressed gratitude for the countless alumni who have exemplified the Gonzaga University ROTC experience in their outstanding military and civilian careers.
“I’ve had so many people come knock on my door who graduated years ago, just wanting to check in and say, ‘hello,’” Rodriguez said. “It’s always fun to hear their stories emerge and celebrate where they’ve been since they were here.”
Those stories and more will certainly come to life as Gonzaga launches its Military Service Community in conjunction with the 2023 Military Ball on Friday, April 28.
“It’s going to be a network available for sponsorship, mentorship, professional and personal development and so much more,” explained Rodriguez. “And it’ll encompass veterans, active duty, alumni, families, friends, faculty, staff—anyone in the Gonzaga community with a connection to military service.”
“We’re very excited,” he added.
Learn more about the Military Service Community and upcoming ROTC 75th Anniversary celebrations here.