Tech Sgt. Genna Gonzales knows what it is like to simultaneously juggle a family, military duties, a career, and her studies. A proud single mom of a fourteen-year-old son, Gonzales has served in the U.S. Air Force for more than 15 years.
Although Gonzales does not have any family members who are serving in the military, an acquaintance put her in touch with a master sergeant who recruited her. Being a young college student and hoping to leave her hometown for something better, Gonzales jumped at the opportunity and has never looked back.
During her time with the Air Force, Gonzales went on three separate deployments to Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, each lasting six months. The time away from home was never easy. Gonzales explains that she is “always grateful to the Air Force, but serving can be tough on families. It puts a lot of strain on your relationships, and it’s toughest on kids. You have to be strong to keep everything together. You have to constantly balance your family, your personal life and your professional life.”
Like everyone, Gonzales deals with life’s stressors and strives to simply take things one day at a time. “I think you should always have an outlet and I would have to say mine is going to the gym. My son is another outlet because he keeps me laughing and makes me realize things could always be worse.”
One of the most important components of Gonzales’ achievements is having access to mentors. With the military, leaders are invaluable in offering their time and assistance as needed. TSgt Gonzales appreciates the fact that she has individuals in her life who selflessly offer guidance and encouragement. The mindset of Gonzales’ mentors was I’ve been in your shoes; I know your struggles. They may have offered advice that was difficult to accept at the time, but Gonzales knows that the guidance comes from a place of experience and genuine compassion.
By having others to go to when she needs trustworthy advice, she is able to give more of herself to the people and tasks around her.
What has Gonzales gained most from serving in the Air Force? She has learned “to genuinely care about the troops that I supervise and mentor those coming up behind me. We are in a world where technology is growing so fast and people are forgetting how important face-to-face interaction is. You never know what someone could be going through unless you physically talk to them. People are human and need that social interaction. All my airmen that ever worked for me knew the mission was first, but they also knew I would always be there for them no matter what. If they needed anything I would drop everything even if it was to stop and listen to them. The job will always be there, but taking time for people and genuinely caring is something that is very valuable.”
She adds, “At the end of the day you have to take care of people. People will stay motivated and put their best foot forward if you genuinely care and they know you have their back. It’s all about trust. Trust is not given; it’s earned.”
Gonzales has some advice for those who may be considering serving in the military, “I would say go for it! It was one of the best decisions I made in my life. I have no regrets of joining and would do it all over again. Like any other job, the military has its ups and downs, but at the end of the day, the military has so much to offer and the stability of a job these days is never guaranteed. To be able to travel around the world, meet new people, go to school, and have a secure job is definitely something of great value.”
Tech Sgt. Gonzales is currently pursuing her Bachelor of Science degree in health care administration at Columbia Southern University.
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