Wednesday, February 01, 2012

EDITORIAL >> New leader: He’s ready

 Col. Brian Robinson, new commander of the 19th Airlift Wing, salutes as Lt. Gen. Mark F. Ramsay and Col. Mike Minihan look on.

Lt. Gen. Mark F. Ramsey, commander of the 18th Air Force, presided over Tuesday’s moving change-of-command ceremony at Little Rock Air Force Base as Col. Brian (Smokey) Robinson succeeded Col. Mike Minihan as commander of the 19th Airlift Wing.

In an emotional farewell, Minihan thanked the central Arkansas community for its support of the men and women of Little Rock Air Force Base, and he thanked the airmen for their contribution to the global airlift effort, especially in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Robinson, having served on both fronts, knows those countries well. At the start of the Operation Iraqi Freedom back in 2003, Gen. Ramsey said at the change-of-command ceremony, Robinson was named chief of the Air Mobility Division Strategy and Tactics Team at the Combined Air Operations Center in Iraq.

The colonel, a C-17 Globemaster pilot, took charge of strategic planning for air mobility and led the way for the 173rd Airborne Brigade’s airdrops into northern Iraq, an achievement, Ramsay said, that’s comparable to the greatest successes during the Second World War.

Since then, he’s served in Kyrgyzstan, Turkey, the Horn of Africa and elsewhere. He has been vice commander of the 437th Airlift Wing at Charleston AFB in South Carolina and executive assistant to Gen. Raymond Johns, the commander of Air Mobility Command at Scott Air Force Base, Ill.

As Gen. Ramsey said, the Air Force replaces the best with the best. The description aptly describes Minihan, who after a record of achievement here, will head the 89th Airlift Wing at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., where Air Force One and other planes for VIPs are stationed.

Like Minihan, Robinson is approachable, modest and a natural leader. These qualities are important as the military is retrenching on several fronts.

The Pentagon will cut spending by at least $487 billion during the next decade, although that figure could go as high as $1 trillion under a deficit-reduction deal reached between President Obama and Congress.

The Air Force has halted the avionics modernization program for about 200 older C-130s, which would have cost about $4 billion and would have kept more planes flying at Little Rock Air Force Base.

In addition, the Air Force says it will close bases across the country, retire older planes and as many as 10,000 airmen, along with thousands of civilian employees.

Air Force Chief of Staff Norton A. Schwartz pointed out last week that the Air Force has eliminated 500 planes since the last round of base closings in 2005.

“So the presumption — I think it’s a fair presumption — (is) that there is yet more excess infrastructure,” Schwartz told a Pentagon briefing. “I think our expectation is that we will actually close bases in a future base-closure round.”

Little Rock Air Force Base is in no danger of closing, but we expect the new commander of the 19th Airlift Wing will usher the base into a new era.Col. Robinson, who has been in the Air Force since 1987, will rise to the occasion. It was his namesake, the immortal R&B legend Smokey Robinson, who wrote the Motown classic, “Get Ready.” The colonel has been getting ready for 25 years for his important new assignment.

Welcome to Little Rock Air Force Base, Col. Robinson.