By Mr. David Mcnally (RDECOM)July 2, 2008
YONGSAN GARRISON, Republic of Korea - Garrison officials nominated a senior civilian employee July 1 for the Secretary of the Army Award for Blacks in the Government 2008 Meritorious Service Award.
Paul Robinson, U.S. Army Garrison-Yongsan Family, Morale, Recreation and Welfare director, has served in Korea as a Soldier and Civilian Employee for nearly 52 years.
In 1957, Pvt. Paul Robinson arrived at Incheon Port in the Republic of Korea. The 15-day journey across the Pacific Ocean was the biggest adventure of his life. As a U.S. Army military policeman, Paul would see his new life unfold before him in a series of unexpected, but welcome turns.
This young African American man had graduated from Millersville University near Lancaster, Pa. the year before. He earned a bachelor's degree in industrial arts and was prepared to become a teacher. However, circumstances changed. His stint as a soldier in Korea would lead to a civilian job opportunity in 1959 and marriage to a Korean woman in 1961.
Robinson never left Korea. Now, more than 50 years later, he is director of the largest FMWR operation in U.S. Forces Korea. He has 530 Korean and American employees with a multimillion dollar annual budget. He also remains married to his wife of 47 years. They have three children, eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
"When I left the Army, I had $250 to my name and a lot of dreams and aspirations," he recounts.
Robinson points to a wall in his office with photographs of all of his senior managers.
"One of the things I really made a point of, there is a rainbow of people," he said. "I always remember what Jesse Jackson said. So, anytime there was someone out there who was qualified, had the ability and the qualifications, whatever their race or gender, I hired them."
Robinson said he never went out of his way to hire minorities, but he views everybody as the same. "It's true," he said, "I look at them the same. If there were a qualified polka dot person, I would have hired them, too."
Robinson is a self-affirmed strong supporter of Equal Employment Opportunity and affirmative action programs. Six of his employees serve as Special Emphasis Program Managers and EEO counselors. Their contribution to the Garrison EEO program is invaluable.
Over the years, Robinson has assumed the role of mentor to other African American employees. In 1976, an Army athlete, Sgt. 1st Class Bennie Jackson, became Robinson's protAfAgAfA.
Bennie Jackson, an African American Soldier, would become a Department of the Army civilian employee and soon rise to the top of his profession as a premiere sports director.
"I consider myself as one of his best friends," Robinson said. "He's an excellent coach and super at just about anything in sports and administration. I feel as if I have pushed him to where he is today."
"We've been together ever since 1976," Jackson said. "We've experienced a lot of things.
Jackson said Robinson has put his trust and confidence in him over the years.
"He's just like a father to me," he said. "He does his best to help everybody ... that's his nature."
Robinson said he has been fortunate. "I've seen a lot of people come and go, I don't see color, but I know it's there," he said.
Robinson has spent a lifetime exemplifying Army values both in and out of uniform. He is a mentor to men and women of all races. His passion for family, employees and community members makes him a role model.
He can recall only a couple of egregious cases of racism during his life. "There is no comparison to race relations from when I joined the Army until now," Robinson said. "It's a thousand times better. But, there are still some people on both sides who will never change. I am inspired by the accomplishments of great African Americans."
"Paul Robinson is one of the most involved and arguably the most visible person in U.S. Army Garrison-Yongsan, a customer service focused organization serving a vibrant community," wrote USAG-Yongsan Commander Col. Dave Hall in the nomination letter.
Due to his herculean efforts, Hall wrote, the Garrison has developed a trend of distinctive accomplishments recognized at the Army level and higher.
"Most recently, USAG-Yongsan won third place in the Army Communities of Excellence competition, ranking in the top three of 179 installations worldwide, and was awarded $750,000 by the Vice Chief-of-Staff of the United States Army," Hall said.
Robinson has been the director of award-winning programs.
"During our National Association for the Education of Young Children accreditation process this year," Hall said, "the Yongsan Child Development Center attained the second highest score for all CDCs in the Army. Equally impressive, our Garrison Arts and Crafts Center won honors as the Aca,!A"bestAca,!A? arts and crafts center in the Army for 2007. The list goes on."
In October 2008, Robinson will complete 52 years of federal service. He says he enjoys his career too much to consider retirement.
"I feel I have a lot of contribute," he said. "I love my job and I love Korea."