Tuesday, February 14, 2012

TOP STORY >> Commander likes new role

Col. Brian (Smokey) Robinson, the new commander of the 19th Airlift Wing at Little Rock Air Force Base, was asked by the base newspaper about his most memorable experience in the Air Force.

“The jury is still out on that,” Robinson last week told the Combat Airlifter, the official newspaper of Little Rock Air Force Base. “I can’t pinpoint one single best experience, but there have been a few highlights. I enjoyed being an instructor pilot, and being a part of planning for the surge in Iraq in March of 2003 was a huge highlight.”

His wing had the daunting task of figuring out how to insert an entire aviation brigade—the 173rd of Italy—into Iraq with huge C-17 airplanes, a feat that’s been compared to some of the great landing successes of the Second World War.

It had never been done before with the C-17 airplanes, said his boss, Lt. Gen. Mark F. Ramsay, commander of the 18th Air Force, at the change-of-command ceremony last month, when Robinson took over the 19th Airlift Wing from Col. Mike Minihan.

“The mission was a textbook success,” Ramsay said. “He was awarded the Bronze Star, pinned on by Vice President Dick Cheney.”

“Smokey epitomizes combat airlift,” said Ramsay.

Robinson “has literally written the book on combat tactics and deployment of the C-17,” Ramsay said. “He is the first weapons instructor course graduate in the history of C-17 to command a squadron.”

Robinson started on C-130s and transitioned to the C-17s. “What Mini is to C-130s, Smokey is to C-17s. They epitomize combat airlift,” the general said.

“I’m happy to be here, happy to serve and look forward to helping people as much as I can here. I hope everyone finds me as approachable as previous commanders,” Robinson told the Combat Airlifter.

Last Thursday, the new commander took Michelle Obama on a tour of the Hercules Dining Facility, which is part of a pilot program to serve more nutritious foods to airmen here and eventually at all 1,000 dining facilities in the military.

Robinson comes from Scott AFB in Illinois, where he was executive officer to Gen. Raymond Johns Jr., commander of Air Mobility Command there.

Robinson was previously assigned to the Pentagon and was vice commander at the 437th Airlift Wing at Charleston, S.C., air base.

Robinson graduated from Philadelphia University in 1987 with a bachelor’s of science degree in computer science and received his commission from Air Force Officer Training School in December 1987 at Lackland AFB, Texas.

His career as a pilot began in 1989 after earning his Air Force pilot wings at Vance AFB, Okla., followed by a position as a T-38B instructor pilot.

The colonel majored in computer science. His favorite subjects included software engineering, world history, economics and physics.

When asked about his favorite books, Robinson listed several, including “We Were Soldiers” by Harold G. Moore and Joseph L. Galloway. The book is about the first major battle of the American phase of the Vietnam War and the soldiers on both sides who fought it.

“The leadership displayed in such a tough situation, such an interesting time in American history, during the Vietnam War, is really astounding. It was also a time where the military became more concerned with taking care of the families of service members,” Robinson said.

He also mentioned “The J Curve: A New Way to Understand Why Nations Rise and Fall” by Ian Bremmer.

“The book is relevant today,” he said. “It’s about the process of stabilization from closed societies to open societies.”

Robinson said the lessons can be directly applied to our experiences in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, Operations Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn.

He also cited “My American Journey: An Autobiography” by Colin Powell. “I think this is just a great story, to see a man’s humble beginnings and his rise to success,” Robinson told the Combat Airlifter. “General Powell had to work hard to get where he is and had to create some of his own opportunities.”

“I’ve always been interested in World War II,” Robinson continued. “However, the recent history of America, from the 1970s onward, is a very exciting era to live in and interests me a lot, too.”

Asked about how he envisions his role at Little Rock Air Force Base, Robinson said, “I don’t think I have any different vision than the previous commanders here. I see the base as a train heading down the track, and we’re just switching engineers right now. Of course, we’ll accomplish the mission with safety and continue to move towards being the premier base in Air Mobility Command, and we will deliver.”

As for his commitment to the men and women on base, Robinson said, “From me, they can expect honesty. I always try to give people the straight scoop, whether it’s good or bad news. Of course I want to ensure good order and discipline in accordance with the core values of the Air Force. Above all they can expect that I will do all I can to properly care for them and their families.”

He said his hobbies include running, soccer, reading about history, spending time with his family and travel.

Robinson said his wife, Maureen, is from Hawaii.

“We met on active duty in Oklahoma. She got out of the service after 10 years.” He said their two sons, Shawn and Justin, are “academically motivated and athletic, interested in a lot of outdoors stuff.

George Washington is the colonel’s favorite president. “I have been impressed with a lot of recent presidents,” he said in the interview, “but to look at how rough forming a democracy is, and has been, the courage and conviction he had to not only win the Revolutionary War, but continue serving the union after is amazing. The best part is, afterwards, he just went back to being Mr. Washington.”