Col. Brian (Smokey) Robinson leaves the change-of-command ceremony Tuesday with his wife, Maureen, and their sons, Shawn and Justin. Behind them are the colonel’s parents, Judy George and William Robinson.
By JOHN HOFHEIMER
Leader senior staff writer
There may have been a dry eye in the house Tuesday when Col. Brian (Smokey) Robinson assumed command of the 19th Airlift Wing from Col. Mike (Mini) Minihan, but as promised, it wasn’t Minihan’s.
Minihan warned audience members, including the Black Knights of the 19th AW, that his Irish roots would betray him and “before my entire command, I will cry like a baby.”
True to his word, he appeared to choke back tears twice in farewell to the base and welcoming Robinson. (See editorial, p. 6A.)
“Smokey, every day of your command we’ll be in combat,” said the popular commander, his voice breaking. “Every hour, every minute, every second for the next two years, you will have somebody in harms way,” he warned.
“I embrace the opportunity to serve and lead,” Robinson said, and to “ensure that the Black Knights and their families are adequately prepared for the task ahead.”
“We will continue to exercise our mission safely, effectively and professionally, with an eye on innovation, to be as efficient as operationally feasible and to face many challenges that are before all of us,” Robinson said.
Lt. Gen. Mark F. Ramsay, commander of the 18th Air Force, spoke glowingly of the 19th Airlift Wing, of Minihan’s leadership at Little Rock, Robinson’s success in Southwest Asia and also of the civilian community that has embraced—and been embraced by—Little Rock Air Force Base.
“This is a great day of transition between two superb Air Force senior leaders—between Col. Mini Minihan and Col. Smokey Robinson. It’s a great day for the Air Force, for Team Little Rock and for a great day at the Rock,” Ramsay said.
The microphone Ramsay was using kept cutting out, and when he was brought a functional one, he said, “The Air Force has a primary and a backup for everything.”
Ramsay spoke of the rich histories of the base and of the 19th Air Wing.
“The missions of both these organizations have been the backbone of our nation’s past,” he said, pointing to “strategic reconnaissance for bombing, for Cold War nuclear deterrence, air refueling to enable global reach, air mobility, command control and for operations in support of counterinsurgency.”
SOMEONE TRUSTS US
“These organizations accomplished their missions with excellence,” he said, and “rest assured that when the next call comes, and it will come, we will answer it. You may ask why. Simply put, somewhere, someone trusts us explicitly to deliver so they can win. Team Little Rock will deliver.”
Ramsay said Little Rock has been the No. 1 tasked Air Force base in support of Southwest Asia overseas operations and that the Black Knights had flown 40 percent of all the lifts in Afghanistan and Iraq and 30 percent of the airdrop missions and flown 13,000 sorties a year “and done it incredibly safely.”
He praised Minihan for taking on the challenge to realign the units and the aircraft on the flightline to make up for years of base realignment and closure movements and the arrival of the C-130J aircraft.
In awarding the Legion of Merit medal, Ramsay also cited Minihan for great work with the housing privatization effort, with the food service transformation, with establishment of the Air Mobility Command’s first base charter school and with the $15 million Jacksonville/Little Rock Air Force Base Joint University Center, which opened about one year ago.
MEET THE NEW BOSS
“Smokey epitomizes combat airlift,” Ramsay said.
Robinson started in C-130s, transitioned to the larger C-17 Globemasters. “What Mini is to C-130s, Smokey is to C-17s. They epitomize combat airlift,” Ramsay said.
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.”
“His most noteworthy accomplishment was when his wing got the daunting task in 2003 of figuring out how to insert an entire aviation brigade—the 173rd of Italy—into Iraq. It had never been done before in the C-17 platform. The mission was textbook. He was awarded the bronze star, pinned on by Vice President Cheney,” the general said.
Robinson comes from Scott AFB in Illinois, where he was executive officer to Gen. Raymond Johns Jr., commander of Air Mobility Command there.
Minihan, who has been commander here since August 2010, will assume command of the 89th Airlift Wing at Joint Base Andrews, Md., whose responsibilities include Air Force One and other planes assigned to top officials.
In an open letter to the base community, Minihan wrote in Friday’s Combat Airlifter newspaper, “You dominate our nation’s enemies in combat. You train daily to a standard worthy of the title ‘C-130 Center of Excellence.’ You execute a state mission to a level that leaves 49 other states extremely envious.”
“On April 25, 2011, I watched you fight for each other on ‘Miracle Monday.’ I’ve seen some powerful things in my life…but never to the level of what I witnessed after the tornado struck.
Minihan’s new assignment will include worldwide special airlift missions, logistics and communications support for the president, vice president, cabinet members, combat commanders and other senior military and elected leaders.
Robinson was previously assigned to the Pentagon and was vice commander at the 437th Airlift Wing at Charleston Air Force Base in South Carolina.
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.
Minihan commanded an airlift squadron and four deployed expeditionary airlift squadrons.
Before he took over the 19th Airlift Wing, Minihan served as vice commander, 60th Air Mobility Wing, Travis AFB, Calif. Minihan is a command pilot with more than 3,200 flying hours in the C-130 and KC-10.