An American contractor and former Army Green Beret who was killed following an apparent scuffle with other U.S. service members in northern Iraq had a distinguished career and was decorated for combat valor.
Two Marines and a Navy corpsman assigned to a Marine special operations unit are currently under investigation in his death, according to The New York Times.
“MARSOC [Marine Forces Special Operations Command] is providing all requested support to investigators as they look into this incident,” Maj. Nicholas Mannweiler told ABC News.
According to his service record, former Green Beret Master Sgt. Richard Anthony Rodriguez earned five Bronze Stars, one with V device for combat valor, and was awarded five Army Commendation Medals, one for valor.
Those awards were earned over a lengthy, nearly 21-year career in the Army that spanned 1991 to 2012 and included four combat deployments to Afghanistan.
From May 2008 until April 2011, Rodriguez deployed three times to Afghanistan, spending only 11 months during that window not operating in the war-torn region.
The New York Times was first to report that a Lockheed Martin contractor was transported to Landstuhl, Germany, following a physical altercation on New Year’s Eve in Erbil, Iraq, and was pronounced dead on Jan. 4.
The Daily Beast first identified the contractor as Rick Rodriguez, a former Army Special Forces soldier.
A spokesperson with Lockheed said they were cooperating with Naval Criminal Investigative Service as they carry out an investigation of the incident.
Rodriguez’s death follows the 2017 death of Green Beret Staff Sgt. Logan Melgar in Bamako, Mali. Melgar was found strangled to death, and two Marine Raiders and two Navy SEALs have since been charged with his murder.
The Defense Department is currently reviewing ethics and standards across the special operations community following a spate of misconduct across the commando units. And in December, Army Gen. Tony Thomas, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, in December wrote a letter to the force calling for an in-house analysis.
"A survey of allegations of serious misconduct across our formations over the last year indicate that USSOCOM faces a deeper challenge of a disordered view of the team and the individual in our SOF culture,” he wrote. “Left unchecked, a disordered value system threatens to erode the trust of our fellow comrades, our senior leaders, and ultimately the American people. Correcting this trend will take committed leadership at all levels of our command and personal moral courage by all.”
Rodriguez also earned a couple of foreign awards, including the Colombian Parachutist Badge and Royal British Parachutist Wings. He served as an 18B weapons sergeant and 18Z senior sergeant while operating with the Green Berets.
His other awards include six Army Achievement Medals, six Army Good Conduct Medals, the National Defense Service Medal with Bronze Service Star, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal with four campaign stars, the Army Service Ribbon, and the NATO Medal.
He also earned the Ranger Tab, the Combat Infantryman Badge, the Expert Infantryman Badge, the Special Forces Tab, the Pathfinder Badge, the Master Parachutist Badge, and the Special Operations Diving Supervisor Badge.
Shawn Snow is the senior reporter for Marine Corps Times and a Marine Corps veteran.