After Active Duty: A Student Never Forgets
A student award from AFCEA sparks a lifetime passion.
The After Active Duty blog series examines the challenges, rewards and lessons learned for those who have transitioned from active duty to the private sector and the role AFCEA played in this progression.
Rear Adm. Carlos Rodolfo, PRT NA (Ret.), was studying science and electrical engineering in 1974 at the U.S. Naval Post Graduate School when AFCEA recognized him for being the top student in his class. That moment sparked a lifelong commitment to AFCEA and its efforts to promote education.
Adm. Rodolfo proved instrumental in launching an AFCEA chapter in Portugal 13 years later. “Since the beginning, I was the point of contact with the navy, and I was the guy dealing with all of the communication and information systems,” he recalls.
The rear admiral served for 10 years as the president of the Portugal Chapter, where he is the chairman of the chapter’s General Assembly. That chapter now has more than 500 members. He also serves as regional vice president of AFCEA International’s Atlantic Region.
The most important event he held as chapter president, he says, was the First National Congress on Security and Defense in 2010. The national congress brought together various government organizations that have a common mission, but haven’t always shared a common strategy or goals. “We put together different ministries—Ministry of Defense, Ministry of the Interior and the intelligence community—all talking together about a common strategy and common systems,” he says, adding that industry also was there to be a part of the solution.
He also was an attaché in the Portuguese embassy in Washington, D.C., on September 11, 2001. Embassy personnel realized immediately a terrorist attack was underway and feared more would follow, he said. He helped coordinate the Portuguese armed forces and joint European response in support of the United States.
Adm. Rodolfo includes universities and research centers as one point of a triangle that also connects the defense community and industry. AFCEA is the center of the triangle, which unites defense—the end users—with industry and academia, he says.
He has continued his involvement with AFCEA following his retirement from active duty in 2003, and he has never lost his passion for supporting students. “Giving awards to students is very important for young people. One of the most important things I’m doing now is working with the student chapters and helping connect these young people to the industry. Whenever you help students, they will never forget,” Adm. Rodolfo says.
Adm. Rodolfo has a long history with students. While still on active duty, he served as a professor at the Portuguese naval academy. As technology within the navy evolved, he helped reorganize training and education and created a new area of focus for engineers: electronics and weapons engineering. Even now, he maintains contact with former students, some of whom are high-ranking military officials.
Moroever, the AFCEA Portugal chapter now has three student clubs with ties to universities in Almada, Covilha and Porto, as well as the naval academy. The chapter and the student clubs recently held an event in Lisbon designed to build bridges between government, industry, academia and research centers and to exchange relevant information about defense research and development. Joao Neves, general directorate for resources at the Portuguese Ministry of Defense, presented the keynote address highlighting priority technology areas for defense and providing guidelines for future research and development partnerships between the military and industry.
“It’s very good for the students, especially for the civilian universities,” Rear Adm. Rodolfo offers. “When you do these kinds of events, you are building the future of AFCEA.”