HomeNewsArticle Display

Humble chief gains national attention

Chief Master Sgt. John Gebhardt and his wife, Mindy, share a quiet moment with their dog, Cole, at their home in Wichita, Kan. The chief is the superintendent of 22nd Wing Medical Group at McConnell Air Force Base, Kan. He has recently gained worldwide attention for a photo of him comforting an Iraqi child. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jeremy Larlee)

Chief Master Sgt. John Gebhardt and his wife, Mindy, share a quiet moment with their dog, Cole, at their home in Wichita, Kan. The chief is the superintendent of 22nd Wing Medical Group at McConnell Air Force Base, Kan. He has recently gained worldwide attention for a photo of him comforting an Iraqi child. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jeremy Larlee)

Chief Master Sgt. John Gebhardt cradles a young Iraqi girl as they both sleep in the hospital. The girl's entire family was executed by insurgents. The killers shot her in the head but she survived. The girl received treatment at the U.S. military hospital in Balad, but cries often. According to nurses at the facility, Chief Gebhardt is the only one who can calm down the girl, so he holds her at night while they both sleep in a chair. Chief Gebhardt was assigned to the 332nd Expeditionary Medical Group at Balad Air Base, Iraq. (Courtesy Photo)

Chief Master Sgt. John Gebhardt cradles a young Iraqi girl as they both sleep in the hospital. The girl's entire family was executed by insurgents. The killers shot her in the head but she survived. The girl received treatment at the U.S. military hospital in Balad, but cries often. According to nurses at the facility, Chief Gebhardt is the only one who can calm down the girl, so he holds her at night while they both sleep in a chair. Chief Gebhardt was assigned to the 332nd Expeditionary Medical Group at Balad Air Base, Iraq. (Courtesy Photo)

MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. (AFPN) -- All of the attention embarrasses him, but as this chief master sergeant learned recently, a lifetime of caring and good deeds is bound to catch up with you eventually.

Chief Master Sgt. John Gebhardt, superintendent of the 22nd Wing Medical Group here, recently gained worldwide attention for a photo of him holding an injured Iraqi child. The photo was taken about a month ago, while he was deployed to Balad Air Base in Iraq.

The young infant had received extensive gunshot injuries to her head when insurgents attacked her family killing both of her parents and many of her siblings. The chief had a knack for comforting her and they often would catch a cat nap together in a chair.

Now, he is back at home in Wichita, Kan., with his wife, Mindy. They have a warm, hospitable home five minutes away from McConnell Air Force Base. His son Ryan, 25, and daughter Amber, 23, have long since outgrown being cradled and he said he thought about them constantly while he held the Iraqi child.

"I got as much enjoyment out of it as the baby did," he said. "I reflected on my own family and life and thought about how lucky I have been."

His affection for children is no secret to his wife, Mindy. While dating John in high school, she watched how he bonded with the child of a coach of one of his athletic teams. That softer side of him is one of the reasons she married him.

"People see him as this tough guy," she said, "but I always see that other side of him that is full of compassion."

The chief, who grew up in Jordan, New York, is not at home in the spotlight. When asked to talk about himself, he always tries to switch the focus to the other military people who served with him at Balad.

While deployed to Iraq, the chief tried to help out any way he could. He figured holding a baby that needed comforting that would free up one more set of arms that could be providing care to more critical patients.

"If I have an opportunity to help out, I look for that opportunity," he said. "They had more than enough to do."

The chief was not alone in volunteering at the hospital. There were more than 800 different volunteers at the hospital during the time he was deployed to Iraq, he said. Some of them volunteered so much that he mistakenly thought they were assigned to the hospital.

When Mindy describes the best qualities of her husband, the first word out of her mouth is integrity. She said the photo of her husband and the Iraqi child truly represents him. She believes he has been so successful because he is such a straight-shooter and puts others' welfare ahead of his own.

"He never leads anyone astray," she said. "He will never do something for himself that would have a negative effect on someone else. He always tells it like it is."

But, the chief attributes his success to his family.

"Without their support I don't know where I would be," he said. "I definitely wouldn't be in the position I am."

And it is the chief's hope that families in Iraq will receive the same kind of support in the future.  They are just like American families, Chief Gebhardt said.

"I pray for the best for the Iraqi children," he said. "I can't tell the difference between their kids and our kids. The Iraqi parents have the same care and compassion for their children as any American."

Life is calmer for Chief Gebhardt now that he is back home, and even though his recent "fame" has highlighted an eventful 27-year career, he said he wouldn't change a thing.

"If I had to do it over again, I would sign up and give it another ride," he said.

Engage

Twitter
Botinsol Analytics has developed a portable precision chem-bio lab for people who need to do real-time analysis in… https://t.co/XgOq8ROkSE
Twitter
#FollowFriday: The 22nd Air Force Chief of Staff @GenCQBrownJr https://t.co/UOG0JDKTVJ
Twitter
RT @GenCQBrownJr: On #PurpleHeartDay we honor and remember the members of the U.S. Armed Forces who were wounded in combat or paid the ulti…
Twitter
.@GenDaveGoldfein retired from active duty and passed on the duty of Air Force Chief of Staff to @GenCQBrownJr. https://t.co/AdlykogVjZ
Twitter
.@GenCQBrownJr's tenets of leadership: - Execute at a high standard - Be disciplined in execution - Pay attention… https://t.co/9EmCYue0OO
Twitter
RT @AirMobilityCmd: We are incredibly proud of our #TotalForce #MobilityAirmen and their support to ongoing relief efforts in #Lebanon. Del…
Twitter
Today, we salute the #heroes, wounded or killed in action, who have served our country. #PurpleHeartDay https://t.co/4yHljdUaNf
Twitter
RT @GenCQBrownJr: I’m blessed to have Sharene by my side & the support of our sons, Sean & Ross. She has committed so much to our family &…
Twitter
RT @CENTCOM: Gen McKenzie informed Gen Aoun of the impending delivery of three C-17s shipments of U.S. relief supplies including food, wate…
Twitter
RT @AFResearchLab: Tune into @hack_a_sat all weekend to watch in the 3D environment, and participate in the @DefenseDigital workshops, made…
Twitter
"I could not be prouder that a true warrior, leader, and personal friend will be taking his first Walk of the Chief… https://t.co/OEIDekSFyo
Twitter
"Of all the blessings of serving as the 21st Chief, the best, by far, has been having the chance to do so side by s… https://t.co/LhEkaVhr5o
Twitter
"This is a very historic day for our Nation & I don't take this moment lightly. Today is possible due to the persev… https://t.co/bAzAQJ6o8l
Twitter
RT @MilitaryHealth: Have you been diagnosed with #COVID19? The @DeptofDefense urges you to donate your convalescent blood plasma when you a…
Twitter
“This is one we’ve been working on for a while, and I’m glad we could get it across the finish line.” - @CMSAF18 https://t.co/xtVu5BQuWW
Twitter
RT @GenCQBrownJr: @usairforce @GenDaveGoldfein Working together & accelerating change, I'm confident that our @usairforce can continue to b…
Twitter
RT @GenCQBrownJr: @usairforce @GenDaveGoldfein You can expect my leadership will be framed by the same four tenants I've used throughout my…
Twitter
RT @GenCQBrownJr: @usairforce @GenDaveGoldfein To do so, we must no longer defer, but must accelerate the needed change & tough choices we'…
Twitter
RT @GenCQBrownJr: @usairforce @GenDaveGoldfein Building on @GenDaveGoldfein's 3 focus areas, I'm committed to addressing today's challenges…
Twitter
RT @GenCQBrownJr: @usairforce @GenDaveGoldfein It's due to their trials & tribulations in #BreakingBarriers that I can address you today as…
Facebook
The newest Air Force Podcast recently dropped. Listen to a small snippet of CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright talk with Staff Sgt. New about resiliency. Listen to the entire podcast on Youtube: https://go.usa.gov/xpnAD or Subscribe to The Air Force Podcast on iTunes: https://podcasts.apple.com/podcast/the-air-force-podcast/id1264107694?mt=2
Facebook
Our mantra, "Always ready!" It's the spirit we fly by! #B2Tuesday
Facebook
Need some motivation to get your week started off right? Listen as CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright weighs in...
Facebook
The U.S. Air Force Academy gives its cadets some unique opportunities. Ride along one of this opportunities.
Facebook
A United States Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker refuels an F-22 Raptor over northern Iraq, Nov. 6, 2019. U.S. Central Command operations deter adversaries and demonstrate support for allies and partners in the region. (Video by Staff Sgt. Daniel Snider)
Facebook
Although the Silver Star is the third-highest military medal, it's not given often. Today, TSgt Cody Smith was the 49th Special Tactics Airman to receive this medal since Sept. 11th, 2001. Read more of TSgt Smith's amazing story: https://www.airforcespecialtactics.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/2024815/special-tactics-airman-battled-through-injuries-awarded-silver-star/fbclid/IwAR2LZWwx1VHdTnQe39rIEBOuJS_0JvMQBBGt7I-E6zsxxn-Lx9387yu43Bc/ Cannon Air Force Base Air Force Special Operations Command United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) U.S. Department of Defense (DoD)
Facebook
Tune in as our Air Force musicians along with other military musicians are awarded the National Medal of Arts.
Facebook
Like Us
Twitter
1,262,556
Follow Us