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May 2024

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Courtesy Photo US Marine Corps US Marine Cpl. Rachel Rael, a Santa Fe High graduate, was chosen from 70 finalists to be Marine of the Year among the branch’s administrative personnel.

Three Generations of Outstanding Veterans

Rachel Rael

US Marine Corps Cpl. Rachel Rael, age 21, grew up in Santa Fe and has deep family roots in Questa. She is a third-generation Marine, currently assigned to the III Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Butler in Okinawa, Japan. As a corporal, she is an administrator, managing payments and deployments, and was named Marine of the Quarter for her unit. In addition, she was recently named Marine of the Year for her work in the Military Occupational Specialty of Administration. She is honored to receive the award. In a recent interview, she said that she joined the Marine Corps expecting it to be difficult, but she is obviously doing really well. She loves the Marine Corps.

Becoming Marine of the Year was easy for Rachel—she grew up in a military family. She always looked up to her family members in the military. Her father, COL Richard Rael and his father, the late Jose Richard Rael, Sr., are US Army Veterans. Rachel enjoyed spending time in Questa with her family, which allowed her to spend quality time in nature, hiking and fishing, and she learned how to shoot a gun at an early age. A 2018 Santa Fe High School graduate, she took art classes while there, and loves to paint, especially animals.

Rachel’s father, Colonel Richard Rael of Questa, retired in August of 2019 after 40 years of military service. He will be the guest speaker at Questa’s Veterans Celebration at noon on Saturday, November 13, at the Sen. Carlos Cisneros Veterans Memorial Park, in downtown Questa. COL Rael said that he always tried to push Rachel toward attending college, but after one semester at UNM in Albuquerque, Rachel made the decision to enlist in the Marines Corps. Her dad always had the feeling she would choose that path, and so did Rachel, ever since she was four years old. She is loving her time in the Marines, and is in no hurry to leave—she says she wants to stay enlisted and is just getting started!

In her freshman and sophomore years at Santa Fe High School Rachel served in the Navy ROTC program, a good training for her, since the Marines are a branch of the Navy. When she enlisted, she had some familiarity with the program, thanks to her ROTC instructors, who saw her potential and encouraged her. It was through ROTC that she got into lifting weights and physical fitness. At the time, she had no idea how this would help her later as a new recruit. Rael attended boot camp in Parris Island, South Carolina, from January to April of 2019, and completed advanced training at Camp Pendleton, California and Camp Johnson, North Carolina. In recruit training, she had drill instructors who helped her a lot. Her goal is to become a drill instructor and train new recruits. She was deployed to Okinawa in September 2019. Going to Japan was her first time outside of the US. Rachel received a Meritorious Promotion to Corporal in January of 2021.

Courtesy Photo: Five Rael brothers served in the military. Pictured above are Arron Rael, Sr., US Army WWII; Mel Rael, US Navy WWII; Fred Rael, US Army; Richard Rael, US Army Korea, and Vito Rael, US Army.

Rachel’s Grandfathers and Great Uncle

Rachel’s maternal grandfather, Richard Madrid, graduated from St. Michael’s High School in Santa Fe in 1953, went directly into the Marines Corps and served in the Korean War near the 38th parallel. He influenced Rachel and issued a few warnings to her about the military, such as: do not join the Air Force or Navy!

Rachel’s late paternal grandfather of Questa was Richard Rael, Sr., who passed away two years ago. He was an Army corporal in the Korean War. After the service he returned to Questa and worked on his ranch and in mining. He was very quiet and reserved, and he didn’t talk about his active service. His son, COL Richard Rael, Jr. said that the ones who are the quiet ones are those who have seen real conflict.

Richard Rael, Sr.’s brother, PFC Aaron Rael, Sr., served in the US Army Infantry during WWll. He was stationed in the Aleutians Islands from 1942-45. He was an active member of Questa VFW until he passed away in 2009. Aaron’s daughter, Cynthia Rael-Vigil, said that her father and all four of his brothers served in the military.

Richard Rael

Coutesy Photo Colonel Richard Rael, commanded five separate Army units during Operation Iraqi Freedom II, 2003-2005, providing combat support to over 38,000 troops in Baghdad.

Colonel Richard Rael enlisted in the United States Marine Corps and was assigned to the 1st Marine Brigade, Marine Service Support Group 31 from 1979 to 1983. He joined the NM Army National Guard in 1983, and received his commission as a Second Lieutenant in July of 1986, after completing Officer Candidate School in Roswell, New Mexico. He graduated from Questa High School in 1979.
COL Rael’s last assignment on active duty was as US Property and Fiscal Officer for New Mexico, a position he held from July of 2008 until his retirement in 2019. He reported directly to the Chief of National Guard Bureau, who is a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

COL Rael commanded the 515th Corps Support Battalion during Operation Iraqi Freedom II from December of 2003 through March of 2005. He had command and control of five separate Army units who provided combat service and support to over 38,000 Army, Navy, Marine, Air Force, and multinational coalition forces in the Baghdad area of operations.

COL Rael has served in numerous critical positions at all echelons of command and staff within the New Mexico Army National Guard. He has held command at the Company, Battalion, and Brigade level. He has also held the positions of Deputy Chief of Staff for Personal (G-1), Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics (G-4), Commander Operation Jump (southern border support operations) in 2006, and as Deputy United States Property and Fiscal Officer.
COL Rael is a 2008 graduate of the Inter-American Defense College in Advanced Study of Hemispheric Defense and Security, Command and General Staff School, Combined Arms Services Staff School, and the US Army Finance Officer Basic and Advanced Courses. He has a Bachelor’s of Art from Regents College, New York, and is a Department of Defense Certified Financial Manager.

His military awards include the Defense Superior Service Medal, Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, Marine Corps Expediently Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, and the Combat Action Badge, along with other numerous awards.
COL Rael lives in Santa Fe, and is proud of both his daughters, Angela Rael, 23 and Corporal Rachel Rael 21, USMC.