Meet the commander – Engineer builds upon good leadership foundation for group

Staff Sgt. M. Davis
Kaiserslautern American editor

***image1***A strong foundation for any group is usually dependent upon its leader.

For Col. Carlos Cruz-Gonzalez, his leadership of the 435th Civil Engineer Group is something he works at day in and day out.

“My goal is to be the best leader that I can be,” said the commander, a native of Bayamon, Puerto Rico. “I try to be an example to my troops and live the Air Force core values and my own personal core values. At the end of the day when I leave, I feel as though I’ve made a small contribution to the group to make it a little better.”

What makes a good leader?

“Character is an important part of being a good leader. When you think about a person’s character you might think about a number of traits – dependability, morals, commitment, integrity,” he said. “All of those elements make up a person’s character. I tell my officers that when it comes to leadership, character is everything. I’ve taken that to heart.”

As a junior officer, Colonel Cruz-Gonzalez’s mentor was his squadron operations chief.

“As a young captain, Chief Master Sgt. Carl Hoffman taught me a lot,” he said. “His mentoring didn’t focus on the work aspect of the job as much as teaching me about how to be an effective leader.”

Commanding more than 1,300 people in the group isn’t easy, and Colonel Cruz-Gonzalez relies on his staff to help him bring many projects to fruition.

“I have a tremendous support team – my deputy Mr. Harry Fink, Chief Master Sgt. Gary Gentz, my superintendent and others on the staff, who keep me informed and focused on the many tasks at hand,” he said.

After taking command of the group last summer, Colonel Cruz-Gonzalez had many construction projects to tackle, but two in particular he is very proud of.

“On short notice and with the help of the 435th Medical and Mission Support groups, we built a new Contingency Aerospace Staging Facility,” the commander said. “In two months time, it went from concept to hardened facility.

Another project he is pleased with is the Combat Proud initiative.

“I’m proud to be a part of the effort to improve the appearance of Ramstein and the KMC. The program is going well, and the changes have been tremendous in many areas,” the commander said. “Again, it’s a team effort.

“I’m proud to be a member of this community. Our vision here is to turn our customers into raving fans. We will do everything we can to achieve that vision,” he said.