Even though September 28 was a Thursday, it felt like a Friday for Marquez Rollins, industrial engineer at Plant 4. It was his last day in the office before he left on a deployment to the Middle East with the Air Force Air National Guard.
As he packed a few items to take with him, a constant stream of associates filed in and out of his office to shake his hand and wish him well, a testament to the type of caring co-worker and friend he is. “I’ve always felt like I’m doing something bigger than myself, but can’t tell impact of what I do until I see others’ reactions,” Marquez explained. “I do appreciate the appreciation and well-wishes, but this is second nature to me; I’ve done this for 10 years.”
Marquez enlisted to pay for higher education, entering basic training 10 days after high school graduation. Though he would graduate as an industrial engineer from Auburn University, his service gave him an education in leadership. “I have maybe 18 troops who report to me. I have to learn their personalities and how to reach them so I can teach them to become the people they want to be,” he said with the book “Emotional Intelligence 2.0” sitting on a shelf behind him. “The fact that I’m young and in management might not make them want to trust me. I have to find a way to relate - through sports or family, the same way I’d begin to trust someone - to let them know I’m human, too. Once I break that barrier, it’s easy.”
As part of the 187th Fighter Wing of Montgomery, Ala., Marquez is currently serving his second deployment in the Middle East and is expected to return in early 2018. He is a technical sergeant, and his unit is a branch of the famous Tuskegee Airmen, known as the elite WWII-era Red Tails, who comprised the first African American aviation unit. “Historians say they never lost a bomber escort, and they completed their missions with zero flaws,” Marquez said. “That tradition of ‘uncommon excellence’ is something we want to honor. We want to be excellent when we deploy or have any inspection.”
“For me, being a black person, I love it. We have huge shoes to fill, and we try our best.”
Marquez’ unit works with munitions. In his own words: “We build the bombs, maintain the missiles and all of the bullets; anything that can go on a plane or in a firearm. I love it.”
His unit’s undertaking requires precision and adherence to strict safety procedures, one of which is placement of his unit away from the rest. Because of this, his munitions unit doesn’t interact with others on a daily basis. But being sequestered fosters a strong bond. “What I like most is the camaraderie. We’re close-knit, and that really hits home with me because I’m a big family person.”
It’s that sense of joining his ‘second family’ that sustains him. “When I’m away from my actual family, I’m with my other family. They care about me,” he said. “Everybody’s worried about me going overseas right now, but I’m with my other family. I’ll be ok and come back to you.”
Shaw is proud to offer its associates who are active Reserve or National Guard members up to four weeks of ‘Reserve duty training pay’ per year. ShawVET, Shaw’s veterans’ organization providing support to veterans and their families, will send Marquez a token of appreciation from his fellow associates while he is deployed. To learn more about the Shaw’s support of its own veterans and those in the community, click here.