Villela-Rodriguez retires after 21 years with Marines
By Bonnie Kay Baldwin
Lake Mills Graphic
Jackie Villela and Joe Jamtgaard, Lake Mills, recently attended the retirement ceremony for Jackie’s sister, who was in the Marines—First Sergeant Latecia G. Villela-Rodriguez, Headquarters Company, 1st Intelligence Battalion at Camp Pendleton, Calif., Aug. 16. Latecia is a 1998 graduate of LMHS, and is presently living in Murrieta, Calif.
“I enlisted sort of by accident. A Marine recruiter came to high school one day and my friend, Jackie Johnson, asked me to go with her to hear what he had to say,” said Latecia. “We were only sophmores so we couldn’t enlist yet, and although I couldn’t see myself in that type of life, I didn’t know what I wanted to do and his questions made me think.”
Latecia explained that, after graduation, she joined the Reserves when she was attending NIACC. After one year, she still didn’t know what she wanted to do, but realized she liked the Marine Corps way of life; their goals and values and the opportunity to travel and get an education.
“The values and everything they stood for mimicked what my mom and dad taught me. At the time Jackie and I enlisted, I was scared and nervous, because it had been 15 years since someone from Lake Mills had joined the Marines, and we were the first females to join.”
Fast forward 21 years later to last month, Friday, Aug. 16. Latecia had a nice crowd of family and two high school classmates—Jennifer (Morgan) Naylor and Alissa (Anderson) Jenson, attend her retirement ceremony.
“Pretty much every one of my family was there—my mother, Rose Villela (from Thompson), my brother Damian, Jr., and my sister Candida and her husband Justin Naser, (Lake Mills), and my sister, Tracy Van Winkle and her husband, Josh, and kids, Ava and Tenley, (Des Moines). So, we had quite the crew out there,” said sister, Jackie.
“It was pretty neat; neither Joe nor I had ever been to a ceremony like that,” Jackie continued. “I had never been on a military base before. It was like being in a city. It was a 30 minute drive to the beach where she had the reception. They have their own stores, gas stations, restaurants, it’s just different . . . it was pretty cool.”
Set up for the ceremony on the parking lot, Jackie described, was a giant United States flag at the front, hanging between two Army trucks which was held up by winches. Then there were two rows of flags representing all 50 states, lined up on either side. Then, there was a folded flag that was passed from one Marine to another and another, and finally, was presented to Latecia.
“I know her ceremony was a little bit different than most people’s; she had booked the Marine Corps Band way in advance. They were there and they played for her.”
Jackie then explained that Latecia’s husband, Marc (he’s retired military also), spoke at the ceremony, along with Chief Warrant Officer 2 Matthew Ford, who was someone Latecia enlisted during her first years recruiting. She also chose someone from every rank under hers—she was an E8 (Enlisted, 8th rank) to speak, as well. The ceremony began at 11 a.m. and lasted about 45 minutes.
“At first, I thought I would be scared, nervous and sad about retiring, but now I’m very excited for it. I have learned so many skills. I started out as an electrician, I’ve done recruiting, talent acquisition, teaching, HR,” said Latecia. “Now, I can say I know what I want to do. I’m ready to take the next step. I’m passionate about teaching and helping people to realize their potential, helping them to set goals and achieve them. I’m excited to teach what I’ve learned—career development and personal, professional development.”
Latecia and Marc plan on spending the next three years in California until stepdaughter/daughter graduates from high school. Eventually they would like to move back to Iowa.
“I would be remiss if I didn’t say that a big part of my success was my education from LMCS. LERCH—the essential outcomes that the staff taught us (Lifelong learner, Effective communicator, Responsible citizen, Critical/creative thinker, and Healthy contributor) and all those things . . . gave me a solid foundation from elementary through high school. It was phenomenal. Without that background I wouldn’t be where I am today in speaking and writing.”
The following military history was printed in First Sergeant Villela-Rodriguez’ retirement ceremony program.
First Sergeant Villela-Rodriguez was born in Albert Lea, Minn. She enlisted in the Marine Corps in May of 1997 and remained in the Delayed Entry Program until her arrival at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, in Feb. 1998. Upon graduation from Boot Camp, she attended Marine Combat Training at Camp Geiger, N.C., where she was meritoriously promoted to PFC. She attended her formal MOS school immediately following MCT at the Utilities Instruction Course in Courthouse Bay, Camp Lejuene, N.C.
After obtaining the MOS of 1141, she transferred to Marine Wing Support Squadron 471, Detachment Alpha, Minneapolis, Minn. to fulfill her Reserve obligation. She performed her duties as a Basic Electrician and was subsequently promoted to Lance Corporal in April 1999.
In May 1999, she reported into Recruiting Station Des Moines, where she served as a Recruiter Aide for Permanent Contact Station, Mason City. She served in this assignment through June 2000.While serving as a Recruiter Aide, she was promoted to Corporal in January 2000.
In June 2000, Corporal Villela-Rodriguez reported back to MWSS 471. Det A to resume her duties as a Basic Electrician. In September 2000, she augmented into the Active Duty Component of the Marine Corps. Upon re-enlistment into Active Duty, she was reassigned to the MOS of 2811, Basic Telephone Repair. In September 2000, she reported to Marine Corps Communications Electronics School in Twentynine Palms, Calif. to complete formal MOS training.
In March 2001, Corporal Villela-Rodriguez completed her formal MOS training and reported into Headquarters Battery, 10th Marine Regiment in Camp Lejuene, NC to perform her duties in basic telephone repair. In May 2001, she participated in Fleet Week in New York, NY. While serving with 10th Marine Regiment, Sergeant
Villela-Rodriguez held the billets of Computer and Telephone Repair Chief, Shipping and Receiving Chief, and Platoon Sergeant. In June 2003, she received orders to Recruiter School.
Upon completing Recruiter School in MCRD San Diego, Sergeant Villela-Rodriguez reported to Recruiting Station Atlanta to serve as a recruiter in October 2003. During her tour of duty, Sergeant Villela-Rodriguez served as a canvassing recruiter and Assistant SNCOIC for Recruiting Substation Duluth. While serving as a recruiter, Sergeant Villela-Rodriguez was meritoriously promoted to Staff Sergeant in July of 2005. In July 2006, Staff Sergeant Villela-Rodriguez completed her tour as a recruiter and reported to Marine Corps Communications Electronics School in Twentynine Palms, Calif. to complete advanced formal MOS training. She completed her training and attained the MOS of 2862 in March 2007.
In April 2007, Staff Sergeant Villela-Rodriguez reported for duty at Marine Wing Communications Squadron 38, Miramar, Calif. While perfoming her duties as an Electronics Maintenance Technician, Staff Sergeant Villela-Rodriguez deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in December 2007. While serving with MWCS 38, Staff Sergeant Villela-Rodriguez held the billets of Organics Chief, Shipping and Receiving Chief, Platoon Sergeant Ball Coordinator, and Company Gunnery Sergeant.
In October 2009, Staff Sergeant Villela-Rodriguez received orders to the Staff Non-Commissioned Academy, Camp Pendleton, Calif., where she could perform the duties as an instructor. While assigned to the SNCO Academy, she instructed students at the Sergeants, Career and Advanced Courses. In September 2010, she was promoted to Gunnery Sergeant. Gunnery Sergeant Villela-Rodriguez earned the Basic and Senior Master Faculty Advisor Certification. In 2012, she was selected as Faculty Advisor of the Quarter and subequently selected as Instructor of the year for SNCO Academy Camp Pendleton. She represented SNCO Academy Camp Pendleton as the nominee for the Elihu Rose Award for Teaching Excellence in 2013.
After completing her tour of the SNCO Academy, Gunnery Sergeant Villela-Rodriquez received orders to 1 Marine Expeditionary Force. While assigend to 1MEF, G6, Gunnery Sergeant Villela-Rodriguez served as the Assistant Maintenance Chief and 630 Functional Area Inspector for the 1 MEF Commanding General’s Inspection Program. In May 2014, she competed as the Senior Enlisted Woman of the Year for 1 MEF, G6, held by the Navy League of the United States and San Diego Council.
In June 2014, Gunnery Sergeant Villela-Rodriguez received orders to 3D Maintenance Battalion and was frocked to First Sergeant. She was promoted to the rank of First Sergeant in September 2014 and served as the Company First Sergeant for Ordnance Maintenance Company through February 2015.
In February 2015, 1stSgt. Villela-Rodriguez received PCA orders to 7th Communication Battalion. She served as the Company First Sergeant for Alpha Company through May 2016. During her tenure, she led her company in conducting the first ever joint Communication Exercise with the Republic of Korea Marines Divisionnn counterparts.
In June 2016, 1stSgt Villela-Rodriguez executed PCS orders to 1st Intelligence Battalion and served as the Company First Sergeant for Counter-Intelligence/Human Intelligence Company through February 2017. She was then transferred to Headquarters Company to serve as the Company First Sergeant.
Her personal decorations include the Navy Commendation Medal with two Gold Stars and the NavyAchievement Medal with two Gold Stars.