Tackling the Responsibilities of Leadership

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Paige Weldon
  • 355th Wing Public Affairs

Covered in sweat, cuts and bruises, Senior Airman Amanda Gonzalez hits the ground and fights to pass the ball to one of her teammates, while another pulls on the collar of Gonzalez’s jersey to support herself and fend off an opponent. Gonzalez reigns victorious from the bottom of the ruck as her teammate gains control of the ball and evades their opponents.

Senior Airman Amanda Gonzalez, an A-10 Thunderbolt II crew chief with the 924th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, described rugby as a hybrid of football and soccer, but safer. Since protective equipment is not worn, players are educated on the proper way to tackle and be tackled to avoid injuries.

Gonzalez began her Air Force rugby career in 2021 after a friend tagged her in an Air Force Women’s Rugby Sevens post regarding an upcoming camp. Gonzalez has been a member of the Old Pueblo Lightning, an amateur rugby team in Tucson, Arizona, since 2019, and is no stranger to the sport. She attended the Air Force camp and fell in love with the atmosphere created by its players and coaches.

Gonzalez joined the Air Force rugby team and competed in her first Armed Forces Tournament in Wilmington, North Carolina, June 2021, where the team finished in second place.

“I wanted to be coached by different people and play with different people,” said Gonzalez. “It’s been fun to expand my rugby knowledge and be a better person overall.”

Gonzalez joined the Air Force in 2015 as a reservist with the goal of learning a new skill while maintaining enough flexibility to continue her education. When she is not working as a physical therapist assistant or on the flight line, she is pushing herself to be a better player and teammate.

“At my first camp with the Air Force, I did my part in being a good teammate,” said Gonzalez. “I was there for everyone and always had a positive attitude on the field.” 

She returned to the Air Force rugby team for the 2022 Armed Forces Tournament and was selected as one of the team’s captains.

“As a team captain, I really feel I can help nourish each player and establish their strengths,” said Gonzalez. “I love the pressure of being the calm within the storm.”

The Air Force rugby team played the four other branches at the tournament and once again finished in second place after a close game against the U.S. Army rugby team.

“Just when I thought I couldn’t push myself any harder, I saw my teammates around me pushing themselves just as much, if not more,” said Gonzalez. “So I pushed myself to go further.”

The camaraderie and sportsmanship of her teammates and the opposing teams is another part of rugby that keeps Gonzalez playing tackle after tackle.

“There’s so much sportsmanship,” said Gonzalez. “You can tackle each other on the field and still help pick each other back up.”

Gonzalez said that being a member of the Air Force rugby team made the decision of reenlisting easier for her. She plans on returning as a team captain for the 2023 Armed Forces Tournament and finally beating the U.S. Army rugby team to win the championship.