Senior Rodney Rudolph has the fire for service


Hollis Belger

Senior Rodney Rudolph looks forward to protecting communities through the Marines and firefighting.

Hollis Belger

This is the time of year when many high school seniors are receiving admissions decisions from colleges. But college isn’t on the mind of this senior. Rodney Rudolph has no plans to embark on the typical college experience. Instead, he is set to launch into his adult life by enlisting in the U.S. Marine Corps, with the eventual goal of becoming a firefighter.  

Over the past few years, California has experienced some of the most destructive wildfires in our country’s history. Firefighters on the front lines are working harder than ever and are also gaining greater respect and appreciation within their communities. Rudolph has been inspired and wants to be a part of the effort.

“Just noticing there are things that actually happen and I could be someone who could help has definitely motivated me,” Rudolph said. 

Rudolph’s desire to help is just one of the reasons he wants to be a firefighter and a part of the Marines, the elite force that carries out intense deployments on short notice.

“Having a brotherhood and going through life’s experiences and becoming a part of something that I’ve wanted to for a while is what I’m most looking forward to. It’s very hard to become a Marine, and it’s a life goal of mine. I feel like this will be something really life-changing and different,” Rudolph said.

Rudolph won’t be the first in his family to pursue a path in the military or public service. Many other Rudolph men have served. Rodney’s uncle, Ed Rudolph, is a U.S. Navy Seal veteran and Deputy Sheriff with the Marin County Sheriff’s Office. Rodney credits his uncle for being a role model in his decision to become a firefighter. 

“[My uncle] has been a big inspiration in my life. He has taught me a lot about what it’s like to go into the military and then after serving. He told me that it’s definitely a cool life to live, and you see a lot of things,” Rodney said. 

Admiration and excitement are mutual. Ed also expressed his positive feelings about his nephew’s future plans.

“I’m excited for Rodney to find his own way. This decision is his decision and is predominantly based on all of the positive stories we have all [Rodney’s extended family] shared about growing up as young men in the military. As well as what we gain for life out of those four years or so,” Ed said. 

Of course, being a firefighter and a military servant requires intense preparation and training. Rodney has already put in tens of hours of hard work as a trainee at the Ross Valley Fire Explorer Program. In collaboration with the Boy Scouts, the program introduces aspiring firefighters different aspects of life in the fire service, including training drills carried out by experienced firefighters.

“Some days we’ll be with all of the adult firefighters from Ross Valley and they’ll be doing their own drills, which is a really cool experience,” Rodney said. 

Firefighter and paramedic of Ross Valley Fire, Jake Peterson, worked closely with those a part of the explorer program. He thinks Rodney has a good approach to his learning so far. 

“He’s respecting his other Explorers around him, and he’s respecting the teacher or firefighter teaching him. I see him listening, paying attention and showing overall respect of everyone else’s learning environment,” Peterson said.

So far, working hard and being committed to the Explorers is one of Rodney’s biggest challenges that he has faced. 

“Being a high school kid, there can be a lot of stuff going on during weekends, and these kids have to get up early and show up. We also do physical training, so that’s a big commitment,” Peterson said. 

With his own years of experience in the military behind him, Ed appreciates the challenges ahead for Rodney. 

“[The military] is very mentally challenging. There is a lot of peer pressure. [Rodney] is such a nice person; he is going to be pushed to be an aggressive, mean person and change his personality to reflect the job of a soldier,” Ed said. “I think that’s going to be very difficult for Rodney, but he will have another side of him for the rest of his life, taught to him by whatever service he chooses.”

Hollis Belger
Firefighter Jake Peterson enjoys watching committed teens become inspired to take on the same career.