Staff Sgt. Robby J. Fowler learned some valuable lessons from his father, then-Sgt. Douglas Childers who served multiple tours in Vietnam.
“I’ve been taught by my father, and my leadership, if something needs to be done, do it--because it’s the right thing to do,” Fowler said.
Back in April, it was time to put some of that good advice into practice for Fowler, who currently serves as a 15F (aircraft electrician) instructor, evaluator and platoon sergeant at C Co., 1-210th Aviation Regiment, 128th Aviation Brigade, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence, based at Fort Eustis, Va.
Fowler and his wife had just left the grocery store on April 17, when they witnessed a two-vehicle accident at an intersection in Newport News, Va. An SUV was overturned, trapping its occupants inside.
They quickly found a place to park, put their COVID-19 masks on and rushed to the scene. They assessed the bystanders to see if anyone had been hit, as well as the driver of the car involved and the occupants of the SUV.
The driver of the car seemed to have a head injury. He checked to see if her eyes were dilated, and got her to remain in a sitting position to prevent a fall in case she were to lose consciousness.
He approached the SUV and tried from the outside to communicate with the passengers. Then, with the help of a civilian, he forced open the rear hatch and Fowler climbed inside, making his way to the front.
The first thing he noticed was an empty car seat, but luckily the child was at home at the time.
He assessed the husband and wife inside the SUV for injuries, and decided it was best to keep them inside the vehicle, concerned that moving them may cause further injury. He stayed with them and continued to talk to them until the police and paramedics arrived.
“They were freaking out, being flipped over in a car. I calmed them down as best I could,” he said.
He then relayed the information he had gleaned to the police.
In situations like that, a person relies on their training, Fowler explained.
“A lot of it was reactive, there was not a lot of thinking about it. Anything you do when you react is a trained, repetitive action,” he said.
Recalling the advice from his father, Fowler said he hoped others would respond if they have the opportunity.
“If you’re able to help, help. Don’t just sidestep and say it’s not my problem,” he said. “That’s part of the problem in the world today--people not doing what’s right when it calls for it.”
During a global pandemic, Fowler was required to report to his chain of command if he came into contact with other people he didn’t know. It was weeks later before his leaders learned the exact details of the incident and how he responded.
“I can’t say I’m surprised. Trying to capture everything Staff Sgt. Fowler does, and his character, is kind of like trying to catch lightning in a bottle. He does it all and then some, and does so without ever bringing any attention to it. He identifies there’s a problem, he finds a solution. He’s constantly taking that initiative. I wanted to make sure he got some recognition,” said Capt. Jacob D. Terlizzi, company commander for C Co., 1-210th Aviation Regiment.
For his selfless actions that demonstrated the highest standards of the Army Values and the Warrior Ethos, he was recently awarded the U.S. Army Safety Guardian Award by Sergeant Major of the Army Michael A. Grinston.
When Fowler joined the Army in his early thirties, he told the recruiter he wanted a specialty that could build on the skills he already had. He previously worked as a home improvement contractor, so he had some knowledge of electrical systems.
“I wanted something I can use after I make it through my twenty-some years in the Army, to learn in a trade that I can value and keep for the rest of my life and be able to profit from,” he said.
His career path provided him a chance to set and achieve goals.
“In the Army, once you accomplish one goal there’s another goal right there to try to shoot for. There’s always something to do to advance,” he said.
He pushed himself in physical training to make sure he could compete with younger Soldiers, and is now a Master Fitness Trainer for the new Army Combat Fitness Test.
With a deployment to Afghanistan as a 15F in 2014 under his belt, Fowler said he appreciates the good leadership that has helped guide him along the way. As a senior instructor now he enjoys watching students become proficient, and is proud to be part of a no-fail mission that provides the best quality Soldier to the Army.
“I work with a lot of high-speed, dedicated NCO’s that feel the same way I do,” he said.
Fowler and his wife have a total of 9 children--three in college, and six children at home. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he has often worked long hours, and then helped supervise his children’s education at home. He has cared for his veteran father during a medical condition, and for his wife who is a recent cancer survivor.
More, he still manages to find time to use his carpentry skills to help out neighbors and friends.
“On top of that, he’s crushing it as a master fitness trainer with Army level impacts, and the master marksmanship training program that they’re trail blazing essentially as aviation (military occupational specialties) teaching ground MOS’s the new marksmanship,” Terlizzi said.
Terlizzi recounted another situation in which Fowler, who is also a motorcycle mentor, responded to the motorcycle accident of a fellow Soldier, and got him to the hospital. While the Soldier was in the emergency room, Fowler fixed his motorcycle for him.
“When I think of a superhero, of someone that shows up at just the right time, just the right place, and knows just what to do to fix it, and then disappears once all is right and moves on to the next crisis--Staff Sgt. Fowler is our superhero,” Terlizzi said.
In the Army, looking up to someone doesn’t have to mean they have a superior rank, and Terlizzi described Fowler as “one of the Army’s greatest retention tools.”
“Nothing makes me and my peers want to continue service more than serving with people like this, who have the utmost character and are just great human beings,” Terlizzi said. “Regardless of everything else going on in their own lives they continue to care about other people, and continue to truly serve. Who wouldn’t want to be in the world’s greatest Army, with the world’s greatest people?”