By James BrabenecAugust 9, 2019
FORT SILL, Okla., Aug. 9, 2019 -- As the ceremonial saber passed from one leader to another, it signified a key moment of transition. The blade's honed edge, which represents the vast array of knowledge accumulated throughout an officer's years of service, was probably insufficient to catalog all the knowledge and wisdom Chief Warrant Officer 5 John Robinson amassed during his 30 years of service.
This transfer occurred during a change of responsibility (CoR) ceremony Aug. 2, between Robinson and CWO5 Steve Pressley in front of I-See-O Hall.
Brig. Gen. Stephen Smith, Field Artillery School commandant and chief of FA, said Robinson led and excelled through 30 years of continuous warfare.
"When I think of John, I see the personification of what it means to be a warrant officer. If you looked for what the gold standard of a warrant officer is in our Army, it's John Robinson. His upbringing as a 13F forward observer, and then to become a warrant officer and progress through the ranks. Through all the schools you've been to, all the way up to earning a (doctorate) in education, they don't come any better than John Robinson."
Speaking of Robinson's value, Smith mentioned a conversation where he told Maj. Gen. Wilson A. Shoffner, Fires Center of Excellence and Fort Sill commanding general, that Robinson is the Swiss Army knife for the FA School and branch.
"When John talks, people listen, and it means a lot," he said
Among his achievements, Robinson facilitated the celebrations of the Year of the Warrant Officer on the cohort's 100th anniversary. He also developed a research and writing program to increase intellectual rigor in the warrant officer education system to include the Eagle Writing Award. Smith said the importance of this will be felt as the Army continues its transition from counter-insurgency to large combat operations. Robinson also created an additional professional military education class for senior warrants that Smith said will begin in about a year.
"John has a resume that if you read it all, it will make your eyes water when you're done," said Smith. "He has served in every echelon of command from battalion to combatant command. He's a paratrooper, a warrior, and he's a warrior scholar."
Smith then honored Robinson's wife, Karen, for her contributions to the Lawton-Fort Sill community beginning with her service as a full-time nurse practitioner at the Lawton Indian Hospital. He said Karen also volunteered as a Girl Scouts troop leader, and served alongside her husband mentoring officer, warrant officer, and NCO spouses.
"Well done, John, well done, Karen. You have served the joint force, the Army, and our branch with distinction, and set a standard for all of us to follow," said Smith. "You're retiring, and you'll walk away from Fort Sill, but your legacy and the contributions you've made will serve for generations in our Army."
CWO5 STEVE PRESSLEY
He concluded his remarks introducing Pressley as the right guy to take over the job. He said Robinson left him with four or five CWOs with sterling reputations and careers to take over as the CWO for the FA branch.
"I chose Steve for a lot of reasons: he's the perfect person with his continuity coming over from the warrant officer education side of the house; there's also his personal character, skill set, and experiences," said Smith. "I have full confidence in Steve and that he will excel in the job he assumed here. Welcome to the team, I'm glad to have you."
Robinson opened his remarks by saying a career like his couldn't be accomplished without the love and support of his wife. During the awards ceremony for his Legion of Merit, Robinson recalled calling Karen from Iraq while he was still courting her. Though the couple wasn't yet married, Robinson said the call made an an impression on her of what she would be getting into. "She stuck with it, and God bless her," he said.
To all who gathered for the awards ceremony, Robinson expressed a heartfelt thanks: "It's a great day for Karen and I, and an even better day for the Pressleys."
Later, during the CoR, Robinson spoke again of his wife's qualities.
"You just can't say enough about Karen Robinson, and without her, I know I'd be in a far, far worse place. She gives me strength every day. From serving the Fort Sill families as a nurse practitioner at Reynolds Army Health Clinic and then transitioning to serve our Native American neighbors in the Lawton community she puts in some incredible hours of selfless care," he said.
He added Karen coordinated a rehab effort of the Martha Songbird Nature Trail Management Area between Girl Scouts in her troop and Basic Officer Leader Course lieutenants that he mentored.
"I will probably spend the rest of my days thanking her every morning," he said.
Of his successor, Robinson said, "Steve and Amy Pressley, this made it easy for us. Steve is absolutely the best guy to come in, and I call him my exit strategy, but the truth is he's an upgrade. They are going to be a fantastic team to support the FA commandant."
Field artillery's fourth CWO then stepped to the microphone giving people a timeline of his connection to I-See-O Hall beginning in 1989 when he attended advanced individual training as a private. Six years later he returned as a 13R Field Artillery Firefinder Radar Operator instructor, then 10 years after his AIT, he returned for the Warrant Officer Basic Course. Two additional visits in 2010 and 2018 cemented the connection.
"It's not lost on how symbolic this building is, and that's why John and I decided to conduct this ceremony here in front of I-See-O Hall," said Pressley. "General Smith, thank you for having the confidence in me to lead the best group of warrant officers -- the 131 Field Artillery technicians in the United States Army. Sir, I can promise you three things. First, I'm going to get up every morning, and I'm going to work hard. Second, I'm going to set the example, and I'm going to lead from the front. And third, Amy and I are excited to join your team."
He concluded his speech speaking of becoming the fourth chief warrant officer in the FA branch: "It's a great day to be in the Army, but it's even a greater day to be in the Army as a Redleg."