Face of Defense: Marine Credits Personal Accolades to Her Leaders

Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Gabriela Gonzales’ hard work has resulted in her selection as the 2nd Marine Logistics Group’s Marine of the Year.

Gonzales, a combat engineer with 8th Engineer Support Battalion, has been in the Marine Corps for just over a year, but she has demonstrated exceptional potential.

The Texas native, previously selected as the group’s Marine of the Quarter, has been taking all in stride.

Striving to be ‘the Best Leader’

“I hit the fleet and I was lucky to be placed under really excellent leadership,” Gonzales said. “It’s not about an award; it’s about emulating my [leaders] and trying to be the best leader I can.”

Despite her reserved demeanor, Gonzales earned distinguished honor graduate recognition during boot camp at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island in South Carolina, indicating her performance has been turning heads since her first day in the Corps.

She’s also an astute learner with more than 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 strong work ethic,” said Marine Corps Sgt. Sheree Barrett, a combat engineer and squad leader with the 8th Engineer Support Battalion.

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,” Barrett said.

‘She’s Great With Peer Leadership’

Platoon commander Marine Corps 1st Lt. Keith MacDonald said that he observed a noticeable difference in Gonzales’ 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,” he said. “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, an Army medic and veteran with eight years of service.

“I’ve seen her overcome extreme stresses that I couldn’t even imagine,” Gonzales said of her friend. “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 remaining before she completes her degree, she’s weighing her future options.

“I’ve always wanted to go into medicine, but right now I love where I’m at,” Gonzales said. “This is definitely a potential career. I just don’t want to shortchange myself, and I want to leave the possibilities open.”

Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Wade Hayes, Gonzales’ platoon sergeant, said he’s 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,” Hayes said. “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.