Meet your commander: 347th Rescue Group

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Rachel Coates
  • 23rd Wing Public Affairs

How well do you know your leaders? Many Airmen may know their commander’s name, but do they know who their commanders truly are?

Airmen must keep track of a variety of requirements and studying their leader sometimes isn’t on the top of the to-do list. So, the Flying Tiger’s Public Affairs team sat down with each group commander to learn about their history, beliefs and life beyond their career in the U.S. Air Force.

This time, they had the opportunity to talk with the 347th Rescue Group commander, Col. Gary “Ace” Symon, to hear about his military experience.

Q1: How has your past military experience shaped how you lead here as the 347th Rescue Group commander?

A1: I’ve been in for 24 years, and over that time I’ve seen a lot of good commanders. I think the most effective way to become a leader is to emulate the good traits you’ve seen in leaders that have come before you.

Q2: Do you think that your time here at Moody helped impact the way you lead?

A2: Certainly. Moody has had a significant impact on who I am today. This is my third time here at Moody and this was my first operational base. I learned a lot about the Air Force at Moody, and I was a squadron commander here from 2016 to 2018. Anytime you have an opportunity to lead at any level it’s going to impact the way you lead in the future. You learn from mistakes and carry those lessons learned forward.

Q3: What do you think you have brought to the mission?

A3: Aside from years of experience, I feel like I provide a unique perspective. I’ve been in a fixed wing community, I’ve deployed more than 10 times, I’ve attended Air War College, Air Command and Staff College and I’ve been a Foreign Area Officer - I’ve seen and experienced a lot of things home station and overseas through the years. I think it’s important to be an effective partner of any team - I’m never going to work alone and I’m blessed with a fantastic team right now.

Q4: What would you like to see accomplished for your group’s mission while you’re here?

A4: I think it’s important the group mission reflects the same mission as the wing. I just happen to be the rescue component of the wing’s overall mission, but our job is to take care of the mission readiness and take care of our people. Being ready to deploy globally, to support rescue efforts in any environment at the behest of any geographic combatant command – that’s what rescue forces do. We’re ready to rapidly go anywhere.

Q5: What advice would you give Airmen that are currently stationed at Moody for their future career/s?

A5: I would tell anyone that wants to make the Air Force their career that they need to remember why they joined in the first place. You’re here to serve others. You volunteered to submit to different regulations and standards than the average citizen. Just remember integrity first and look into finding a mentor that can help you along your career path. Ultimately, you’re going to decide if the Air Force is the life-style you want. I don’t know where exactly it happens during someone’s career, but at some point you recognize that you are the Air Force. Once you make that leap, I think it’s easy to start to emulate what you want the Air Force to look like.

Q6: How important is family to you, and what will you do to inspire your team to value work/life balance?

A6: You have to find a work/life balance because you don’t want to complete your Air Force career and end up without your family at your side. Even though my family doesn’t wear a uniform, it’s still a family that serves. It’s still a family that makes those sacrifices. This was my 14th move to come back here to Moody and it’s my wife that’s been there along the way to make sure the kids were set up in school and that we had a home. My family is why I serve and why I make certain decisions. I want to provide for my family. They’re the reason I get up in the morning and come into the office. Not just because of my love for the rescue mission, but for my love of my nation and my family.

Q7: What advice would you give yourself as a young Airman/Officer?

A7: You need to have a mentor and someone to admire that you’d like to emulate. I think while it’s important to have a goal, don’t push that so far out that you don’t have an opportunity to change your mind. Enjoy your time in the Air Force – you’re doing something that a very small portion of the United States populous is willing to do. Select careers and jobs that give you satisfaction. Don’t be afraid of making changes in the Air Force. Also, it’s okay to want to do something else, but leave yourself an out and stay open for opportunities.

Q8: What do you do outside of work? What are your hobbies?

A8: My hobbies are going to flex based on where I’m living. Here in South Georgia, I tend to do more things like hunting, mountain biking, fishing, or traveling and doing random weekend excursions around the area. Embrace what the local area has to offer. If it has outdoor activities, then participate in those. If it’s more of an urban environment, then maybe try to see more museums.