Team Edwards welcomed Chief Master Sgt. Andrea J. Gates as the new Air Force Test Center command chief May 21. Chief Gates is now the principal advisor to the command on matters concerning morale, welfare, discipline, training, fitness and effective utilization of the center’s 18,000 military and civilian members and their families and 30 geographically separated units.
In the short time she has been here she noted, “Everybody seems so enthusiastic and enjoys being here and is very proud of the mission. When I found out I was coming here, everybody had nothing but good things to say – even though it’s hot and out in the middle of nowhere!”
Gates will fill the role of retired Chief Master Sgt. Christopher McCollor, the first AFTC command chief who retired after 30 years of service.
“I certainly appreciate the high level of professionalism and discipline that is called upon every member of the Air Force to uphold. The civilian population expects that of the military services and we should all be proud to be held in that high esteem,” said Gates.
If you have heard the chief talk you can tell “she’s not from around here.” Born and raised in England, Gates came to the United States via Germany where she moved after finishing college.
She says she†is always interested in hearing the stories of Airmen, telling why they joined the Air Force. She shared her own tale about the crossroads she came to.
“In the town I lived in Upstate New York, I would often walk past the recruiter’s office and one day I just kind of walked in,” said Chief Gates. “I think maybe it’s in my blood. My brother is in the Royal Air Force as were other family members, my father was in the army, all the way back to my grandparents in the Second World War. And further back to my great grandfather who was in Grand Hussars riding around on horseback in India with a sword.”
Twenty-four years later, she “couldn’t think of anything else she would rather do.”
Since enlisting, Gates has served at 11 different locations across the globe, including a stint as a Defense Administrative AttachÈ in Islamabad, Pakistan, and a joint assignment as the Air Force admin/liaison at the Defense Photography School at Pensacola Naval Air Station, Fla.
While primarily trained as an information manager, she spent five-and-a-half years at Lackland AFB, Texas, as a military training instructor in the 331st Training Squadron as well as the Military Training Instructor School as the senior instructor.
She did not arrive at Edwards AFB without a taste of test and evaluation and Air Force Material Command. The chief started her career with Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center Detachment 4 at Falcon AFB, Colo. (now Schriever AFB), the 1017th Test and Evaluation Squadron at Peterson AFB, Colo., and then in the AFMC command section at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio.
Prior to joining Edwards, Gates served as the 314th Airlift Wing command chief at Little Rock AFB, Ark., whose mission is to “Train the world’s best C-130 Combat Airlifters to fly, fight and win.”
While there, she completed all the training and certification required to fly on C-130s at any time.
“I had students and instructors, that’s what they did, their job was in the sky, so that’s where I went. I think the priority of any command chief, at any level, is people and communication. My priorities are my commander’s priorities and to remove barriers, accomplish the mission and take care of Airmen. This means my primary goal is to ensure that information makes its way from the top and goes all the way down.”
Though Gates does expect to face challenges during her time at Edwards, those challenges are not unique.
“One thing is for certain, change is constant and a challenge we all face. Challenges run across the Air Force. I think everybody’s experienced the same kind of thing with force management and then with the budget and sequestration. Now we have a new Airman Comprehensive Assessment and as we look to the future, a new EPR.”
According to Gates, communication is key.
“Ensuring people have the information to make good decisions and not be afraid, because change is a big thing; it is a very personal thing. I really believe it’s important to have that face-to-face communication. I think in this day and age we get so used to texting and Facebooking, we sometimes forget the importance of having that one-on-one, face-to-face sit down and talk with our folks.”
Gates encourages Airmen to, “Go see the person first, if you can’t, then pick up the phone and speak to them. The very last resort is to email. After all, you really can’t effectively supervise through electronic means. I think Airmen these days are extremely smart and talented, we just need to make sure we develop the whole person, in person.”
As Gates has heard from more than one great enlisted leader, “Do your best every single day. It is all you can do, but you have to do it. Not every day is going to be a great day. But, if you hang up your uniform at the end of your shift and you can say you did your best, then that is a lot to be proud of.”
Gates is joined by her husband, Master Sgt. Dennis Gates,†a defender assigned to the†412th Security Forces Squadron.