CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. - 2nd Marine Logistics Group has selected Lance Cpl. Gabriela Gonzales, a combat engineer with 8th Engineer Support Battalion, as its Marine of the Year.
Gonzales has been in the Marine Corps for just over a year, but has clearly demonstrated that she has exceptional potential. The Texas native, previously selected as the 2nd MLG Marine of the Quarter, has been taking all in stride.
“I hit the fleet and I was lucky to be placed under really excellent leadership,” said Gonzales. “It’s not about an award, it’s about emulating my leadership and trying to be the best leader I can.”
Despite her reserved demeanor, Gonzales earned distinguished honor graduate recognition at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, indicating her performance has been turning heads since her first day in the Corps.
She is also an astute learner with over 100 credit hours toward a degree in cellular biology.
“She’s much more squared away that I was as a Lance Corporal; she has a hard work ethic,” said Sgt. Sheree Barrett, a combat engineer and squad leader with 8th ESB.
Barrett said Gonzales’ inquisitive nature, and tenacity in applying what she learned was what stood out the most.
“She really impressed me in taking charge, asking the right questions; I just try to answer them to the best of my ability,” said Barrett.
Platoon commander and engineer officer 1st Lt. Keith MacDonald also recalled his initial impression, commenting that he observed a rather noticeable difference in her performance between her first and second field exercises.
“She’s great with peer leadership, being able to guide her peers, make sure they understand things and are ready,” Said MacDonald. “She’s an outstanding Junior Marine by far.”
Although her father, grandfather and multiple uncles have a record of military service, Gonzales says one of her biggest sources of inspiration has come from one of her best friends, a U.S. Army medic and veteran with 8 years of service.
“I’ve seen her overcome extreme stresses that I couldn’t even imagine,” said Gonzales. “She definitely didn’t have an easy job either; she rucked more than most infantry Marines do - and she’s tiny!”
Gonzales knew from the beginning she would pursue a combat related military occupational specialty but with only 24 credit hours required to complete her degree, Gonzales is weighing her future options.
“I’ve always wanted to go into medicine, but right now I love where I’m at; I’m blessed to be in this MOS,” said Gonzales. “This is definitely a potential career, I just don’t want to short-change myself and I want to leave the possibilities open.”
Staff Sgt. Wade Hayes, Gonzales’ engineer platoon sergeant is confident she will do well, regardless of her ultimate decision.
“Her work ethic is above the rest and she never settles or decides to take the easy way out,” said Hayes. “Lance Corporal Gonzales’ potential is limitless; whatever she puts her mind to, she can go out and do.”
Gonzales will go on to compete for Marine of the Year for II Marine Expeditionary Force but says her focus is on continuing to develop herself.
“It’s not about an award, it’s about emulating my leadership and trying to be the best leader I can to the peers that I have,” said Gonzales. “My favorite thing about failure is you’re definitely going to get something from it.”
When asked about what she has taken away from the leaders she expressed so much high esteem for, Gonzales said it’s not about her, but rather the Marine to her left and right.
“Servitude and humility makes you an excellent leader,” said Gonzales. “That’s what I will take away.”