Maj. Gen. Ryan Gonsalves has come full circle in his 31 years with the U.S. Army.
Gonsalves, a Colorado Springs native, was commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1984 and served his first four years at Fort Carson. For the next two decades Gonsalves toured the country and the world before returning to the Mountain Post in 2011 as deputy commanding general. In May, he became commanding general of the 4th Infantry Division and Fort Carson, taking over for Maj. Gen. Paul LaCamera. Gonsalves spoke to the Business Journal this week about coming back, his first 90 days as commander and his installation’s relationship with the surrounding communities.
In your 31-year military career, where have you spent the most time?
It’s probably between here and Fort Hood in Texas. I was here from ’84 to ’88 as a lieutenant and then as a deputy commanding general from ’11 to ’13 and now as commanding general. But I’ve been to Fort Stewart in Georgia; I’ve been to Germany; I’ve been to Fort Knox in Kentucky, I’ve been to the Pentagon three times and then obviously here at Fort Carson.
You had been back in Colorado Springs for a while before becoming commanding general in May, but how has the transition been since then?
The transition has gone very well. Obviously, we’ve been able to build on what Gen. LaCamera was able to build at the Division. Based on the priority of the Secretary of the Army and the Chief of Staff of the Army, readiness is our primary focus — readiness from a maintenance perspective, from a personnel perspective, from a leader development perspective, from a training perspective — in order to ensure that we can respond to any of the combatant commanders in a moment’s notice. Building additional relationships with the community was my second priority here as division commander. I came in and saw areas with opportunities to improve and build upon the bonds that we already had. It’s very easy with a community that is so receptive to leadership at Fort Carson. My third priority is just going back to the basics and building those blocking and tackling perspectives that soldiers need in order to achieve successes in decisive action.
Have you faced any obstacles during that transition?
No obstacles, I don’t think. I think it’s just my personality — it was very easy for me to re-establish those friendships when I came back … The dialogue with El Pomar, or the Military Affairs Council, or the Colorado Thirty Group, or Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo — whatever the organization — we were able to reinvigorate that very quickly.
The dialogue with El Pomar, or the Military Affairs Council, or the Colorado Thirty Group, or Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo, we were able
to reinvigorate that very quickly.
– Maj. Gen. Ryan Gonsalves
Do you feel that you have somewhat of a “home field advantage” here?
I don’t know if it gives me an advantage. I think what gave me that was being here two years ago … having been [Lt. Gen. Joe Anderson’s] deputy and being able to participate in many of those events that we did, whether it was a ride along with [Colorado Springs Police Chief Pete Carey], sporting events in the local communities, events in Denver, Pueblo, Trinidad, Westcliffe. … We were able to form a lot of neat bonds and participate in a lot of great events.
You spoke earlier about business relationships. Have you been able to foster any new ones?
Obviously we have a new mayor, and he and I are getting along pretty well. … I’m really forming that new relationship, and we’ll continue to work closely with the other local elected officials. As far as economic opportunities, we’ll continue to work on those relationships we do have.
You became commander during what seemed to be a stressful time, with the threat of major personnel cuts. Has learning that those cuts will be far less than anticipated affected that?
The effects will be minimal compared to other installations. But then again, we don’t know what the Department of the Army civilian cut will be in the fall, and we don’t know what sequestration is going to do to us … What I always tell people is that, ‘We made it this time, but we don’t know what the next one brings.’ If the Army has to drop additional forces — we went from 490,000 to 450,000 — who knows what will go? I don’t know.
Is there anything you’d like the business community to know about Fort Carson?
From what I’ve seen so far, the dialogue is wide open. I think they are always looking for ways to help our military, both from a soldier perspective and from a spouse or dependent perspective. They are always trying to ease problem sets for us, financially. They are always looking for ways to give back. So I think we have a clear understanding of where they can help and how they can help, and we’ll take advantage of those when we can. … We just want to be good stewards of what’s out there.