Meet your commander: 23rd Medical Group

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Whitney Gillespie

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, the 23rd Medical Group commander, Col. Chris Gonzales shared his vision of servant leadership, gave advice to Airmen and talked about the hobbies he enjoys doing with his family.

Q1: How has your past military experience shaped how you lead here as the 23rd MDG commander?

A1: I started my military career as a U.S. Army armor officer, so my leadership style has evolved over the years. Early in my career, as a combat arms officer, many of the leadership decisions needed to be made from the top because there wasn’t time for collaborative leadership.

As I have transitioned to Air Force medical, my leadership style has evolved. Now I categorize my leadership style as servant leadership. I still need to make sure the organization is moving in the right direction to support the Wing, but on a day-to-day basis I have found success in empowering my Airmen to take ownership in their processes. My job is to create an environment where they can succeed and accept risks where appropriate.

Q2: If you’ve been at Moody before, do you think that your time here helped impact the way you lead?

A2: I am one of the few group commanders where this is my first time being assigned to Moody AFB, but I have quickly grown to love this assignment. The community is extremely welcoming; and I couldn’t think of a more important mission set to support.

I am third generation career Air Force. My grandfather was a flying crew chief and retired as a master sergeant. My father spent most of his career in pararescue, before going to Officer Training School (OTS) and becoming a physician’s assistant, then retiring as a captain. My mother also served as a medical technician for a few years in the Air Force.

I have a deep-rooted respect for the rescue mission because of my father’s military experience and I also owe the lives of myself and my previous soldiers due to precision close-air support given by our A-10 community.

I feel extremely blessed to have been selected to command here, and if I was given the choice of any commands in the Air Force, I would choose this one again.

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

A3: During my active-duty Army time, I was assigned to the 3rd Infantry Division at Ft. Steward, GA. While there I served as a scout platoon leader during the invasion of Iraq, where my unit traveled a day ahead of the rest of the division. I witnessed many close engagements and had first-hand experience in combat medicine and seeing the chain of care under fire. I am hoping that I can share some of my experiences with my organization to help keep us focused on training for the next fight.

Q4: What advice would you give Airmen who are currently stationed at Moody for their future career/s?

A4: I know it is an overused saying, but bloom where you are planted. There were a few times in my career where I had an assignment that I wanted but ended up being sent to a different location. In every case the assignment that I stepped into ended up being memorable either for what it did for my career or my family. Do the best at the job that you are given and everything else has a way of working out.

Q5: How important is family to you, and what will you do to inspire your team to value work/life balance?

A5: Work-life balance is extremely important to me and for the Airmen that work in my organization. One of the reasons that I separated from the Army was that I saw how hard it was to have a family with the operational tempo that we were maintaining.

I advise all of my leaders to lead from the front in balancing work and life. If our Airmen see that their leaders are spending more time at work than with their family, they are more likely to do the same. Our Airmen are also looking at their leaders' work-life balance and determining if that is a job that they might want in the future.

Q6: What advice would you give yourself as a young Airman/Officer?

A6: I would give the same advice that I would give to any Airman, and that is to do the best job that you can in your current assignment and that everything else will work out.

Q7: What do you do outside of work? What are your hobbies?

A7: As a parent, I am lately spending a lot of time at school functions and kid’s sports. I do enjoy watching movies with my family though.