Veteran Profile: Marine Corps veteran and alumnus Francisco Vazquez
Francisco Vazquez - Iraq War veteran, Brandman University alumnus, and now a business professional immersed in the use of such advanced technologies as artificial intelligence, robotic process automation and blockchain– has dedicated much of his life to service and education, and these commitments have in turn propelled him to new opportunities.
“Francisco Vazquez personifies who we are as Brandman University,” faculty president Dr. Sheila Lakshmi Steinberg said. “Vazquez is a true example of a modern-day Renaissance man who is putting his interdisciplinary skills to work to contribute to society, science and the application of innovative technology simultaneously.”
Vazquez, born in Mexico, moved to Chicago with his family when he was nine years old. He spent his childhood in the Windy City and nearby Waukegan before joining the Marine Corps after high school in 2005. He previously opened up about his experiences immigrating to the United States and serving in the Marines during an interview with Steinberg that was recorded for a 2015 episode of the "" podcast.
For Vazquez, now 32, the decision to enlist was a fulfillment of a lifelong interest in military service and the beginning of a search for new opportunities.
“I’ve always had a passion for the military,” said Vazquez, who served in the Marines from 2005 through 2013.
The military assigned Vazquez to serve as an amphibious assault vehicle crewman at Camp Pendleton. He later received deployment orders to Iraq, where he served in 2006 and 2007 around Karmah, which is west of Baghdad and north of Fallujah. Overseas, Vazquez helped to advise Iraqi police and security forces and also led community engagement projects to foster trust between Iraqis and U.S. military personnel.
Vazquez’s military experiences also included a deployment to Somalia, where he and other Marines worked on community-building projects intended to give people living there opportunities to keep them away from piracy. He also served as a unit leader during four training exercises in which more than 1,500 people serving in the armed forces of five countries learned to work together. Vazquez closed out his time in the military by serving for nearly two years as a recruiter, from 2011 through late 2013, meeting with future Marines in Santa Ana.
Vazquez recalled recruiting duty as providing some of his most rewarding experiences in uniform.
“I was able to help young people like myself, coming from Santa Ana and Tustin, areas that are underserved at times, and helping them find their way,” he said.
Vazquez was approaching the conclusion of his military service when, while attending a public event to meet with prospective recruits, he stopped by a Brandman booth and decided to learn more about the institution.
His research led to a decision to use his G.I. Bill benefits to enroll with the university, and Vazquez also worked for Brandman as a one-stop student services specialist at the Riverside campus before he graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Social Science in May 2015.
“Brandman played an instrumental part in getting me to where I am today,” Vazquez said. “They legitimately care about students. They still do. I think that’s rare when you go to a school and people care about you as a person, and not just a number.”
After Brandman, Vazquez continued his studies in London at Hult International Business School, where he earned a Master of International Business degree in 2016. He then took a job managing a 39-man security team defending the U.S. embassy in Kabul. He also trained more than 50 guards in Afghanistan, and provided a U.S. flag that flew above the embassy to Brandman’s Riverside campus as a gift.
Vazquez earned another advanced degree, a Master of Science in Information Systems from Philadelphia’s Drexel University, in June of this year.
Vazquez, who is fluent in English and Spanish, now lives in both Boston and London. He works as a business analyst for Accenture, where he and his colleagues use such tools as data architecture and artificial intelligence to help Fortune 500 clients find solutions for complex problems.
He’s also prototyping an app to help veterans identify the resources and people who can assist their passage from military to civilian experiences, and provides volunteer services to the Veterans Administration, as well as high school-age youths who are interested in coding.
“Veterans are a group of people that were really fortunate to do some really cool things and see some amazing places,” Vazquez said. “However, veterans are also much more than that. We are now doing really cool things in brand new places and it is my hope people will remember that whenever they meet a veteran.”
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