WASHINGTON — Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez, the No. 2 commander of the Afghanistan War for the last two years, has been nominated to receive his fourth star and take command of U.S. Army Forces Command in Fort McPherson, Ga.
Rodriguez became well known across the top military leadership as a former personal military assistant to Defense Secretary Robert Gates. In May 2009, shortly after President Barack Obama took office, Gates sent Rodriguez back to Afghanistan to help renew the U.S. war effort there, along with another Pentagon denizen, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who had served on the Joint Staff and commanded Joint Special Operations Command.
He is expected to be replaced in Afghanistan by Lt. Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, the Army commander at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state and the head of I Corps, which is based there.
Scaparrotti, who previously commanded the 82nd Airborne Division, last year commissioned an investigation into whether officers should have known about the actions of a group of 5th Stryker Brigade soldiers accused of a range of crimes including killing innocent Afghans for sport. In the last year, the base also has faced problems with soldiers’ suicides, mental breakdowns and steroid use.
Rodriguez had previously commanded Afghanistan’s Regional Command-East and, like Scaparrotti, commanded the 82nd Airborne Division. In 2009, he took charge of the daily operations of the war as McChrystal’s deputy commander, assuming control of International Security Assistance Force Joint Command.
After McChrystal’s firing in June 2010, new commander Gen. David Petraeus kept Rodriguez on to help smooth the transition.“General Rod,” as he is affectionately known, oversees a joint operational command center, actually a converted gym with huge monitors and rows of desks manned by men whose shoulders bear the flags of dozens of nations.
Visiting Washington dignitaries frequently seek him out to explain the state of the war, and he often travels alongside Gates when the secretary is in country.
Initially, Rodriguez seemed ill at ease facing the media, less polished than his senior commanders. But in recent months, he has appeared more comfortable handling both the media and the very public criticism that comes with the job, leading many to speculate where he would land next.
U.S. Army Forces Command, or FORSCOM, is the service’s largest command, responsible for the training and mobilization of soldiers worldwide.
Rodriguez, a native of West Chester, Pa., graduated from West Point in 1976. He replaces Gen. James Thurman, who will take command of U.S. Forces Korea.