Q&A: Sgt. Maj. Robinson back on the block

31 Oct 2012 | Lance Cpl. Glen E. Santy

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. (Oct. 24, 2012) – Sgt. Maj. Christopher G. Robinson arrived aboard Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point Oct. 18 to serve as the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing sergeant major. Robinson came from Marine Corps Base Hawaii, where he was the sergeant major of Marine Aircraft Group 24.

Q: What are your guiding principles as a leader?
A: Guiding principles start with people, knowing your people and communicating with them: left, right, up and down within the chain of command. People need mutual respect, trust, honesty and sincerity; especially when engaging with Marines from a leader’s stand point. Lastly, I would say decision making. Being firm, fair and consistent. Before a decision is made, taking a step back and looking at all sides of what the repercussions are is important.

Q: What are your top three priorities for 2nd MAW?
A: We’re doing well in my top three areas, but I know we can do better. First, what I want is more emphasis on readiness – more specifically, individual readiness, as opposed to unit readiness. I think we get (unit readiness). The MAW does very well managing our operations tempo, deployments and overall successes, but the readiness of that individual Marine, Sailor, and most importantly, their family – that’s where it starts. My second is core values, (getting back to the basics). It’s nothing I’ve made up, but it should be ingrained in us and a part of our decision making not just on duty, but specifically (off-duty). Marines need to always do the right thing. My third priority is adhering to and maintaining standard – those being, the Marine Corps’ standards required of us in and out of uniform. We will focus on and do better in these three areas.

Q: What attributes do you look for in your Marines?
A: I can tell a solid Marine by three things. First, initiative: not being told to go do something but taking initiative to do it, and if the Marine doesn’t know how to do it, taking the initiative to ask.
The second thing is professionalism, which goes a long way – this includes how Marines interact, their influence on their peer group and how they act with juniors and seniors alike. When I see a Marine or Sailor out in town, I don’t want to see him or her looking like a “soup sandwich.” I observe the way they carry themselves. I want to see constant professionalism.
The last one is simply hard work! Go the extra 10 yards to get the job done. Stay a little bit later that night to make sure the job, the Marines and the mission are taken care of. That goes a long way. These three things: initiative, professionalism and hard work. I don’t care what you’re doing as a profession, these three things are a proven recipe for success.

Q: What does being back at the 2nd MAW mean to you?
A: First, obviously I was slated for this job, but there were many other Marine sergeants major who could certainly do this job and are just as capable as I am. I’m just fortunate and honored to have been extended this opportunity here at Cherry Point, a place that I’ve always held near and dear in my heart. It’s a place that I have fond memories of growing up in the Marine Corps.
My decision to reenlist and stay in the Marine Corps, to start a career, was made right here. There were a lot of positive influences that were at play. So now, I have an opportunity to have a positive and lasting impact on the future of the MAW, all the Marines and Sailors and their families here.
I’m very pleased about a chance to make a difference. Not necessarily to “leave my mark,” but to leave something behind. That’s something you figure out when you get more senior. It’s not about what you did, but what you left behind that matters. That’s what this means to me, and I certainly feel the good Lord put me here for a reason.

Q: Who were some of your influences?
A: Gunnery Sgt. White, [who retired as a] sergeant major, worked at the 2nd MAW’s inspector’s office. He was the staff noncommissioned-officer- in-charge. He and [retired] Master Gunnery Sgt. Arnold Breckenridge. These two Marines were true mentors to me. Neither one of them were my staff NCOIC, they were senior staff NCO’s who cared and also who I and everyone else looked up to because of what they brought to the table. They were genuine, honest and sincere.
They saw potential, and they were strong leaders. When I made poor decisions or was headed in the wrong direction they put me back on the right path. They both even influenced the reenlistment decision I made at my four-year mark. At three and a half years, I was ready to get my DD214 and go back to Florida to become a state trooper. I was a young Cpl. Robinson at the time, and I was told “Hey, Robinson, you can go far in this Marine Corps. All you have got to do is want it.”
Just that encouragement, that mentoring and that nurturing – it was almost like having chow – it was nourishment for that growth and development, and I got it. But I’ve carried that until today. I have a chance now, and in a much larger capacity, to do that same thing.

Q: What would you consider the highlight or most memorable moment of your career?
A: I have a lot of memorable moments, but the highlight of my career, or most treasured time frame, was my opportunity to take a squadron forward to Afghanistan as a sergeant major. I deployed as the sergeant major of Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 363, the lucky Red Lions, a CH-53D squadron out of Marine Aircraft Group 24 in Hawaii. I flew with the Marines – I knew what they did every day – I knew what they did in the garage – I knew how grueling the execution of the flight schedule was. I knew the inherent dangers of flying in that environment. I knew it and lived it, and it was a highlight of my career.
I learned a lot about myself and the Marines and Sailors and respected them even more for what they did. Every single day that we were out there, no matter if situations were good or adverse. I was in complete awe seeing how they stepped up to the plate no matter what the circumstance.
We had many close calls out there, but what made the deployment most memorable was that between the commander and I, we made a promise to bring everyone home to their families safely, and we did that.

Q: What is the biggest leadership challenge you face, and what do you see as the key(s) to overcoming that challenge?
A: The biggest leadership challenge here is misconduct, most of which occurs off duty. I would say 90 percent of them involve alcohol in some way and many lead to injury and death. That is going to be the biggest challenge for me and the commanding general because they are distracters. They impact unit readiness in so many ways, and in some cases, end careers.
The majority of this doesn’t involve the conduct of a Marine during normal working hours. It happens after hours. I strongly believe the way that we need to curtail bad behavior is influencing the same target audience where the majority of it happens, the gunnery sergeants, the staff sergeants, the sergeants and the corporals from an enlisted leadership standpoint. Yeah, you see a lot of misconduct in the younger troops, the lance corporals and below, but who is leading them?
The real challenge will be to try to figure out a way to reach them. They’re the future of the Marine Corps. They are the future senior enlisted leaders in the Marine Corps.
Q: What gets you out of bed in the morning?
A: Well, the Lord gets me up, but with the realization of that, I have another opportunity to make a positive difference involving every individual Marine or Sailor, or even their families here at 2nd MAW. But when you’re getting old like me, my motivation comes not from looking up.
It’s true it’s lonely at the top, but I look down on the troops for my strength and my source of motivation. It’s a young man’s game; they’re what keep me going. Having a chance to make a difference, or to have an impact every single day is why I wake up in the morning and come to work. I’m honored and privileged to have been given the opportunity to do serve them.

Q: What keeps you up at night?
A: Bad phone calls – a few of them in my career that I would certainly not want to remember – a potential poor decision that a Marine or Sailor could, or may, make that will result in their loss.
I’ve been unfortunate to have had that 2 a.m. notification that we lost a Marine. I’ve experienced this nine times. Having to notify a parent, husband, wife, etcetera, of the loss of their loved one is always very difficult. It’s not good stuff, but nonetheless my responsibility.

Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point