Meet the commander: Lt. Col. Antonio Gonzalez|
Posted 9/7/2012 Updated 10/31/2012
by Staff Sgt. Rachelle Elsea
325th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
9/7/2012 - TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- After arriving at Tyndall last year and spending less than six weeks with his brand new squadron, the 325th Contracting Squadron commander, Lt. Col. Antonio Gonzalez said goodbye to his Airmen and spent six months in Afghanistan.
Now, after returning home safely, he is ready to start preparing his own Airmen for the struggles they will face in a deployed environment.
"I have been working on getting back into the motion of things," said Colonel Gonzalez, a native of Greenfield, Calif. "My primary goal now is preparing my folks for deployment. Training is a focus. I want to make sure that they have the right tools in their bag to do what they need to do."
After returning from Afghanistan, Col Gonzalez said he learned the importance of having the technical skills and knowledge as a contracting officer as well as the right attitude.
"Whenever new contracting officers arrived in my office, my expectations were that they had the right skill set and right attitude," said Colonel Gonzalez. "A deployed environment is like the Super bowl and I needed contracting officers to train our customers and not be trained by fellow contracting officers."
Colonel Gonzalez, son of Gloria and Antonio Sr., was never really a stranger to the expectations of the military lifestyle. In addition to his father serving, he also had an aunt and uncle who served in the Air Force.
"My dad was in the Air Force as an enlisted transportation Airman," he said. "I was born at March Air Force Base [Calif.] in 1971, while he was still active duty. He served his four-year commitment and separated in 1973. Then we moved to Greenfield, in the Monterey County area in California."
Colonel Gonzalez is the oldest of three boys.
"My parents were very committed to our success and did whatever it took to support us," he said.
Colonel Gonzalez's mother worked at their local school as the secretary and recently retired. His father worked at lumber yards, hardware stores, and even picked up odd jobs doing electrical and mechanical work. He currently works at a university and will also retire soon.
During his younger years, Colonel Gonzalez was active in sports.
"I did football and track and field all four years of high school," he said. "I had more fun in track and field because it was better to go to meets in a bus full of girls versus a bunch of sweaty guys for football games. Plus, there is no bench in track and field."
After high school, Colonel Gonzalez initially attended a community college and took his basic courses, before transferring to California State University Fresno, where he joined the Reserve Officers Training Corps.
"I had an aunt that went through the ROTC program in Fresno, so I followed in her footsteps," he said. "I knew the pride that came with wearing the uniform and serving my country was something I always wanted. I think it started when I was younger while in Scouts, where they instilled patriotism and community involvement from an early age. It was also in the family."
Now, Colonel Gonzalez has a family of his own.
"I have four kids who are 8, 7, 4 and 2, and a beautiful wife, Jennifer, who has been very supportive throughout my military career," said Colonel Gonzalez. "We have been married 11 years. We met at church when I was stationed at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio and she was teaching in the area."
Colonel Gonzalez said he enjoys his kids' personalities and watching them grow and interact.
"There is nothing like the love and affection they give you," he said. "Granted, there are some challenging days, but they grow up really fast and you have to take advantage of the quality time you have with them. As busy as I am here, I try to keep that in mind and my wife reminds me to keep that balance. I try to take a break from the day and meet up with them for lunch or we try to participate in FSS programs on base, whether it's youth soccer or football."
This is Colonel Gonzalez's first tour to Tyndall.
"We have really enjoyed the access to the beaches and water," said Colonel Gonzalez. "It is a great family environment as well. The base community, especially where we live in housing, is very conducive to family living. We have a lot of neighbors that have kids the same age as ours."
He said, when he finds spare time, he enjoys reading spiritual books and watching a little television.
But right now his spare time is limited because of his concentration on getting back into a steady routine. Colonel Gonzalez said his career so far has been a blessing.
"I have been very successful," he said. "I have to give thanks to God for that. I also thank my parents for teaching me how to think and act, how to stay on the straight and narrow, how to be able to take on a leadership position like I am now and how to set a good example. This is what I have been prepped for all my life."
Colonel Gonzalez believes there are several different types of leadership styles.
"I care about people and I want them to know that I have their best interests at heart and I am always available," said Colonel Gonzalez. "I want to take time to listen to them if they have any issues and I want them to know I have an open door policy."
He said his biggest challenge is showing his Airmen the bigger picture.
"Working in contracting has been rewarding," said Colonel Gonzalez. "It may not be as exciting as flying a jet, but if you step outside and look around at the aircraft themselves, the runway, the buildings, we have touched it all. We have a hand in a lot and that is what I take pride in and I want to make sure the Airmen know that that is the kind if impact they are making here at home and downrange."