Our Trojan Veterans: Ron Rubalcaba

This is the second of three veteran profiles the Gateway is featuring in honor of Veterans Day. Be sure also to join President Folt for the campus-wide Veterans Day celebration, this Wednesday at 11am on Zoom.


Ron Rubalcaba sat in his sociology class at Cal State L.A., knowing he didn’t belong there. He wasn’t prepared for college. He was tired of his rut, tired of being caught in a cycle of living for the weekends just to go out with friends. He knew there was more to life. There had to be. Ron thought about what he really wanted out of life. He’d always thought about traveling. He thought about how patriotic he felt after the Gulf War had ended, but he knew he didn’t want to join the Marines or the Army. A fox hole was not his idea of a travel destination. Then, it hit him. He walked out of that sociology class, got in his car, and drove to the recruiter to enlist in the U.S. Navy.

After going through boot camp in San Diego, Ron was stationed on the USS Independence CV-62 in Yokosuka, Japan. During his three years there, Ron most definitely got his fill of travel. He went to places like Hong Kong, Singapore, Dubai, Australia, and Hawaii. His hours were long – twelve on, twelve off, seven days a week. Waking up to blue waters every morning, however, was an experience worth the work.

Ron’s second station was unique. He and his twin brother ended up stationed together in San Diego. “My brother and I were on the same ship, in the same workshop, the same everything. It just happened to be. I had a blast,” Ron says. He ended up in the weapons department, something at the time he knew nothing about. During his time there, he ended up in mechanics hydraulics. “I moved weapons from down below in the magazines up to the top and got them onboard the aircraft. So, I was the guy doing maintenance on the elevators and transporting them on the elevators. That was (my and my brother’s) role.” Ron notes this job was incredibly stressful, but it taught him a lot about leadership. “Working in the teams, working in a fast-paced environment, the stress environment – that’s really what I enjoyed for some strange reason,” he notes. He loves it so much in fact, he was rewarded for it, earning the Navy Achievement Medal while participating in the 1996 RIMPAC (Rim of the Pacific Exercise, the world’s largest international maritime warfare exercise), serving for the Commander THIRD Fleet.

Ron’s leadership continues today with his position as Assistant Director of Admissions for the Dworak-Peck School of Social Work. Between recruiting and budgets and enrollment goals and revenue, Ron carries the stress well as the leader of his team. “In this particular role with admissions and recruitment, it is stress. It’s fast, it moves, you’ve got to think on your feet,” he says. Yet, Ron says he finds the most success in his role by not being afraid to roll up his sleeves and do the same thing he’s asking anyone under his charge to do. A skill he learned in the Navy, for sure.

Ron is proud of his work at USC, and USC is proud to have him as part of the Trojan Family!

Are you a military veteran and a USC employee? We want to hear YOUR story!

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