Operation Tribute to Freedom

Faces From the Front for December 13, 2010 - Capt. Reinaldo Gonzalez II

Captain Reinaldo Gonzalez II

Current Unit: U.S. Special Operations Command, Regional Command – North
Current Position: Aide-de-Camp
Component: Active Army
Current Location: Afghanistan
Hometown: Hackensack, N.J.
Years of Service: 5

One of the most storied match-ups in college football, the annual Army-Navy game rallies Soldiers, Sailors and Marines round televisions around the world to see who will claim victory to bragging rights for the next year. In Afghanistan, one Soldier will be taking a break from his normal 14-hour a day schedule to enthusiastically cheer on his alma mater.

“I decided to attend West Point for two reasons; I wanted to attend a premier institution for building leaders of character and I wanted to serve as an officer in the Army,” Capt. Reinaldo Gonzalez II said. “I look forward to watching the Army-Navy game this year. My prediction is the same as it is every year, I hope that Army wins.”

While Gonzalez never represented Army on the football field, in his five years as an Army officer he has served with a courage and valor any athlete would aspire to.

Four years ago, while attending U.S. Army Ranger School, Capt. Gonzalez fell 35 feet during a training exercise, absorbing the majority of the impact on his neck. Suffering from a spinal cord injury to his neck, it appeared Gonzalez would experience severe motor function impairments for the rest of his life.

“Spinal cord injuries take a toll on the body,” Gonzalez explained. “Depending on the level of injury, one can be left permanently paralyzed. That being said, for those that recover, the lingering side-effects can prevent them from working.”

Through the support and encouragement of his family, Gonzalez spent three years in physical therapy recovering from his spinal injury.

“To a large extent, I was very lucky to survive my fall and have had such unbelievable support from my family,” Gonzalez said. “My recovery took me to seven different rehabilitation facilities, but now I am thought to be one of the only service members with a spinal cord injury who has deployed to the United States Central Command’s area of responsibility.”

The commitment and determination Gonzalez demonstrated throughout his recovery process ensured that he was up to the Army’s strict health and fitness standards, which allowed him the opportunity to deploy.

Currently serving in Afghanistan, Gonzalez is the aide-de-camp for the deputy commander of Regional Command – North.

An extremely prestigious position, the duties of an aide-de-camp involve working closely with high-ranking officers and fulfilling responsibilities relevant to an entire command. When an aide-de-camp position becomes available, numerous Soldiers from across the command apply, and the best and the brightest are hand-selected to serve. Gonzalez’s perseverance and dedication to the Army, proved he was worthy of such a position.

“I was very fortunate to be offered the job,” Gonzalez explained. “The deputy commander and I serve in the same command, U.S. Special Operations Command. He knew of me and my desire to return to doing what I love, and after a series of conversations about what my responsibilities would be, he asked if this was a job I would be willing to do.”

Gonzalez is charged with assisting the deputy commander of Regional Command – North with logistics, scheduling his briefings, setting up his meetings with local Afghan officials in nine provinces throughout Afghanistan and arranging transportation for all activities.

“The deputy commander is the second in command of Regional Command – North. He advises the commander and at his request, interacts with members of various levels of the Afghan government, both civil and military. My job is to ensure that all of the ‘behind the scenes’ coordination is done in a timely manner so that the deputy commander can focus on the current event,” Gonzalez explained.

Gonzalez knows that his work supporting the deputy commander is important, as it allows him to focus on completing missions that positively impact the people of Afghanistan.

“My commander’s work directly affects the Afghan people,” Gonzalez said. “He has the ability to improve quality of life and help contribute to building a stable government capable of independent control.”

Since arriving in Afghanistan, Gonzalez has viewed every assignment as a learning opportunity and has continued to build his repertoire of skills, many of which he will undoubtedly be able to leverage in his future Army career. That said, while the aide-de-camp position is still fairly new to Gonzalez, he has found that he’s able to apply some of knowledge acquired during his previous Army training.

“The training I had as an infantry officer taught me to remain calm and communicate effectively, something that is required of an aide,” Gonzalez explained.

Gonzalez is scheduled to return to the U.S. sometime next year. He will visit his family in New Jersey and then prepare for his next assignment.

Telling the Army Story: Community Relations

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