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AFCENT Command Chief honored to be 'back in the fight'

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. J. Aaron Breeden
  • Air Forces Central Command Public Affairs
After more than 23 years of service, Chief Master Sgt. Ramon "CZ" Colon-Lopez, U.S. Air Forces Central Command's new command chief, said he is eager to lead the war fighters of AFCENT.

"I've been given so many opportunities by the Air Force and being a command chief is just one way to give back to our people," said Colon-Lopez. "When I got the call from General Hesterman to come and be his command chief, the first thing that popped to mind was, 'What a great honor to come back after all these years to help lead the fight."

As a pararescueman, Colon-Lopez said he had the honor of deploying shortly after the events of 9/11 and has subsequently deployed to the AFCENT area of responsibility many more times.

"In order to lead you must first do," said Colon-Lopez. "Being a seasoned warfighter, my focus is to ensure people understand what we're here to do, why we do the things we do, and the end state we are trying to reach; all by leading by example."

No stranger to the stressors of military life, after more than a decade of fighting, Colon-Lopez fully understands what it takes to support today's service members before, during and after a deployment.

"I had plenty of opportunities to be out in the battle field, dealing with the good, the bad and the ugly," said Colon-Lopez. "But equally as important is understanding what happens when you transition into garrison operations and how Airmen struggle to adjust when they come back. We have to set our teammates up for success."

This breadth of experience has provided Colon-Lopez with a keen awareness of the tactical and strategic mission while balancing family issues.

Simply being able to share his lessons-learned and help keep Airmen tactically sharp is a "huge win" Colon-Lopez said.

Above all Colon-Lopez emphasized the importance of maintaining a "servant's" attitude.

"When I was a young Airman I struggled to understand what being a servant meant," he said. "I let my personal bias and wants get in the way, like many of us do today. But, after a candid conversation with a superior who loved serving, I fully understood that we are here to carry out the orders of our superiors. It is non-negotiable; they are called 'orders' for a reason, not 'suggestions.' "

"It's not about self-pity, it's about self-discipline," he added. "You must have the willingness to make sacrifices that lead to doing the right things all the time. If you start feeling sorry for yourself then you're going to fall behind and become someone else's problem. Just like any determined fighter, if we take a good hit, we take a knee, regroup and get up. Once you are on your feet, come out swinging and go for the knockout. It's game on, Molôn Labé."

This same Airman-turned-Chief finds daily motivation via our Oath of Enlistment.

"I memorized the Oath of Enlistment and lived by it," said Colon-Lopez. "They're not just words; it's what our nation needs from us. It's what we need to be doing for the Air Force. Serving is an honor and a privilege, and the AFCENT AOR is an opportunity for anyone to prove their worthiness to the fight, no matter the duty. Dare yourselves to be better than who you are today, because only the mediocre are always at their best. We owe it to all the warriors who have made the ultimate sacrifice."

The Chief added that it's the interaction with the Airmen who get him fired up every day to complete the mission.

"My advice is to be the archetype teammate that any leader would want to have on their team," said Colon-Lopez. "Be the dependable teammate that peers would want to share the battle field with, the dedicated teammate that any leader would say, 'That is the kind of Airman who I want to grow to lead others and replace me someday.'"