Tuesday, June 11, 2013

EDITORIAL >> Robinson leaves mark

“Life deals you the reality. What are you going to do with it? I strongly believe in blooming where you are planted.”

– Col. Brian Robinson in a speech to Webster University students earlier this year.

If the airmen of 19th Airlift Wing at Little Rock Air Force Base are the Black Knights, then Col. (Brig. Gen.-select) Brian Robinson has certainly been their kingly leader and the wing, the base, the community and the relations between them have more than bloomed in the 18 months that Robinson has headed the wing.

The brigadier general-selectee will relinquish the reins July 9 and head up to Scott Air Force Base, Ill. He will be succeeded by Col. Patrick Rhatigan, an energetic leader who, like Robinson, has served in Southwest Asia.

In what is actually his fourth tour of duty at LRAFB, Robinson has overseen major accomplishments and had to deal with financial strains imposed by government turmoil.

He helped oversee an air show — one of the last we will see for a while — that brought in a 250,000 people to see how the base works and how ready the base is to respond to any conflict or disaster. Those have included continued support on the war on terror and numerous humanitarian efforts around the globe.

Robinson was also at the 19th AW’s helm when it was announced that the base and community received the Abilene Trophy, for the second time in three years, for outstanding community-base relations and support.

But what was toughest for this officer, who was raised by a single mother who received her nursing degree while bringing up three children, was dealing with budget cuts, sequestration and furloughs, which hit the base because of a congressional impasse.

His focus was on communication — getting the word out to base members as things unfolded. At the same time, Robinson and his team looked at every possible way to save money and yet keep the wing mission-ready. He succeeded, even with more than 600 civilian-employee furloughs hitting the base next month.

Robinson’s work ethic was clearly on display as the 19th AW commander. But his dedication started early in his Air Force career.

A command pilot with more than 4,300 hours in airlift and trainer aircraft, he actually rented a Cessna to make sure “I didn’t get air sick before flight school started” because he had never been in a plane.

Robinson believes leaders have a responsibility for developing employees to reach a higher potential.

“Provide honest and timely feedback; communicate with your people. Communicate strengths and weaknesses. Don’t think that ‘no news is good news.’ Be honest with timely, constructive criticism so your employees can grow in performance; coach your people. Informal conversations are as important as formal ones.” These are just some lessons he has learned and practices.

As a leader, Robinson believes he should always be humble, credible and approachable. He also said a good leader knows his craft, and he should admit when he’s wrong.

Robinson’s life focus is simple: Work hard to make a positive difference in the world. Here at LRAFB, he did it all and he will be missed.