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Where one lives makes no difference on family

5/2/2010 - PEORIA AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Illinois -- Home, according to the Encarta Dictionary, "the place where a person, family, or household lives," is a complicated thing. To love your home means that you are comfortable with it. You know what you know about it. To move out of a home is quite a test. Everything now becomes unknown. It is the reason I think many stay in one place all their life. But not Chief Rodrigo 'Rico' Gamba, 182nd Airlift Wing Aircraft Maintenance Supervisor, he chooses to challenge the definition.
A native Columbian, his family immigrated to Boston when he was six. There he grew up and went to school, a point emphasized by his slight Southy accent that shows no mention of his native tongue. In fact he has the voice of the everyman, probably given to him from his willingness to travel and learn and challenge the self. A willingness that is leading him to move on at least one more time, this time to Channel Islands, California, in a lateral move as Chief of the 127th Airlift Wing's Aircraft Maintenance Squadron.
"A rolling stone grows no moss," clichéd Chief Gamba, as he quoted the useful old proverb. "I am very excited about the opportunity... Peoria is the longest time I have ever spent in one place in my entire life. Peoria is a great place to raise a family. As my family prepares for the move we are starting to get mixed feelings. We have so many close friends and this will not be easy."
Hard or easy, the stone began rolling when Chief Gamba enlisted into active duty 1980. After he finished his initial training at Chanute Air Force Base, Rantoul, Illinois, he went onto Eglin Air Force Base, Florida where he worked in aircraft flight command systems.
After a short period with the Air Force Reserves in Massachusetts, he then went back to active duty at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona to work as an Electrical Environmental Technician. In 1987 he had the opportunity to go overseas and was stationed at Ramstien Air Base, Germany where he eventually became a Master Instructor, calling it a "great time. He then, in 1992, joined briefly a Field Training Detachment at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Michigan where his well traveled experiences were noticed on a training trip to Peoria during the 182nd conversions to F-16s.
"I came to Peoria and I liked what I saw. I liked the area. I liked the commanders," said Chief Gamba, who has virtually raised his family here. "Peoria is a place for family. It has the great Midwest personality of great attitude and work ethic."
And so with the experience in hand Chief Gamba referred to the decision to move to Peoria as an easy one, moving from the ranks of Technical Sergeant to Chief. One person who has had the opportunity to witness Chief Gamba's growth is his current commander Lt. Col. D.K. Carpenter, 182 Aircraft Maintenance Squadron Commander. Chief Gamba and Lt. Col. Carpenter were both enlisted at the time of his arrival in the electrical environmental shop. Lt. Col. Carpenter has always been impressed with Gamba's willingness to take a chance.
"He took a chance taking steps backward so that he could move forward," said Carpenter describing how Chief Gamba moved into the flight engineers shop which eventually led to his career path as Chief.
The fruitful move also paid off for the 182nd as well.
"We are the best guard unit in the world. Are mission capable rates are second to none. Everywhere we go people know who we are. We are the best and we stand out to no one. But I aim to change that. I look to help Channel Islands take a hard charge at Peoria," said Gamba.
Lt. Col. Carpenter looks for the competition to occur.
"Those (the 182nd) rates are a tribute to his leadership," said Carpenter. "I have learned a lot from him. We have been together a long time and have a good working relationship. No matter who we hire it will not be the same because of what we have been though together. I will really miss that.
Lt. Col. Carpenter went on to describe how his legacy will impact the 182nd. Unless someone has a statue made of them, we don't leave a whole lot in the world. So what we leave is our characteristics. For Chief Gamba he leaves a legacy on the new supervisors brought in by him. It's how you train personnel and the way he has mentored them to do the job. Because of him we are the best, said Carpenter.
One of those impacted by Chief Gamba is Master Sgt. Aaron Miller, 182nd AMXS Aircraft Mechanical Supervisor.
"He is the epitome of an Air National Guard Chief. He leads by example. He expects professionalism and he requires accurate information...He is very disciplined, something he does for himself and expects of his supervisors as well," said Miller.
Master Sgt. Miller went onto explain that the expectations have always been with the intent of making his people better.
"He wants you to make good decisions. He wants you to become a good leader," said Miller. "I believe he has raised me to a higher level as a supervisor. He is very motivating."
Chief Gamba has not limited his motivation to just the base. He has been an active member of Peoria Soccer as a organizer and coach, the Holy Family Catholic Church Athletic Committee, and Goodwill committee functions. But most of all he has been a motivator for his family.
"I know he is a very caring individual for his family," said Miller
A sentiment echoed in Chief Gamba's own description of the 182nd.
"This guard unit is second to none. It is no nonsense family unit. We take care of our own. There are not a lot of units like that. I believe we have the best working relationships in the guard and that is why we get a lot done. This is what I intend to bring (to the 127AW)," said Gamba.
Lt. Col. Carpenter has no doubts Gamba will be successful.
"He is trustworthy, reliable. If I were to die tomorrow and I had to trust somebody with my family, it would be him. He will get it done. He makes it right," said Carpenter.
Chief Gamba chose Peoria because of what he saw as an opportunity to raise his family a "big city without big city problems." His oldest boys Steven, 23 and Joseph, 20 know Peoria as their home. For the past 18 years the 182nd has come know that a home is more than where you reside. A home is what you make of it. While Chief Gamba's youngest son Jacob, 9 will be afforded the opportunity to grow up in California, his location will be irrelevant. His education, like the 182nd's will be one of integrity and work ethic, all because one man's journey marked with a willingness to take a chance on family.