U.S. soldier killed in Afghanistan had strong ties to Fort Benning, Columbus Crossfit community

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A former Fort Benning soldier was among the two men killed over the weekend during an attack in Afghanistan. Six other U.S. soldiers were wounded.

Sgt. 1st Class Antonio Rey Rodriguez of Las Cruces, N.M., and  Sgt. 1st Class Javier J. Gutierrez of San Antonio, Texas died in Saturday’s attack. Both men were assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne), at  Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.

The 28-year-old Rodriguez had strong ties to Fort Benning and Columbus. He joined the Army in 2009 and quickly earned the Ranger tab. He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment and deployed eight times with the Fort Benning-based unit.

In June 2018 he voluntarily re-classified as a Cryptologic Linguist with expertise in Spanish, according to a report on military.com. Those who know him, say Rodriguez moved from Columbus last summer.

He was a coach at Columbus CSG, a downtown Crossfit gym. Before Monday’s workout, those who knew him as “Rod” and “Rey Rod,” remembered “a good guy and friend.”

Rodriguez coached Dorothy McDaniel, executive director of Trees Columbus.

“He was so exceptional, just as a person and a coach,” McDaniel said Monday morning at the gym. “So funny. He was such a funny guy. But really an inspirational leader. It was easy to forget how young he was because he was such a natural leader and coach.”

The way he worked with all types of people made Rodriguez special, McDaniel said.

“He had such a good heart and wanted to see everybody around him succeed at what they are doing, whether you are a 25-year-old Ranger or a 45-year-old tree-hugger mom,” McDaniel said. “He just wanted to see you do your best.”

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