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    Pioneer for women in maintenance retires from Florida with 42 years of service

    Pioneer for women in maintenance retires from FL with 42 years of service

    Photo By Sgt. 1st Class Carmen Fleischmann | After 42 years of service in the National Guard, Chief Warrant Officer 4 Bonnie...... read more read more



    Story by Staff Sgt. Carmen Fleischmann 

    107th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

    When Chief Warrant Officer 4 Bonnie Robinson joined the Women's Army Corps on May 1, 1974 in Schenectady, New York, she was only 19 years old. She had no way of knowing that her career would span 42 years, taking her from New York to Florida and Iraq.

    "I was still in high school, and I just thought it was the right thing to do. My dad was in the service and my brother was in the service, and I had a recruiter that approached me. I was very young and naïve," said Robinson. "When I joined, I didn't really know a lot about the outside world. But then I loved it."

    Like most women serving in the military today, her Basic Combat Training (BCT) was challenging. Unlike those Soldiers that came after, she attended an all-female school.

    "It was an all-female basic. There was a battalion of us, probably 450 females, with female DI's (drill instructors)," said Robinson. "It was a totally different experience. I was from the country. I wasn't a city girl. I had to get in with all these people that I didn't know."

    Her initial encounter with Army training was a frightening experience when her orders accidentally took her to Montgomery, Alabama instead of her BCT station of Fort McClellan. She had to go to the airport and find her way to the correct location all alone, which was a little intimidating for a girl who had never left home. This would not be the final time that Robinson had to navigate unfamiliar territory without a guide.

    Her first unit of assignment was the New York National Guard's 1018th Supply and Service Company, which had only three females among its ranks. Robinson expressed an interest in typing, so her unit sent her to telecommunications school. Although they did not have a telecommunications specialist position, she did receive on-the-job training serving as an Admin Specialist, which would carry her to the rank of sergeant. From there, she moved to food service, advancing through the Non-commissioned officer ranks until she moved to Florida with her husband.

    In January of 1990 she joined the Florida National Guard, taking an assignment with the 711th Maintenance Company in Crystal River. For her new position as an equipment parts specialist, within the maintenance area, she had to take a reduction to E-6. Although the field was still predominately male, she could see a change beginning to take shape among the force, which has continued to evolve during the course of her lengthy career.

    "By the time I got to Florida, the women were more prevalent in the units than when I first joined," said Robinson. "I see a totally different Army now than what I saw back then. More of a progressive Army. Back then they were more strict."

    Despite the increasing acceptance of, and widening opportunities for, women in the military since the time of her enlistment, juggling a military career and home life continues to be difficult for most Soldiers.

    According to her most recent supervisor, Army Lt. Col. Geri Swarts, her dedication to inspiring the troops she works alongside is one of her finest qualities.

    "Bonnie always cared for her Soldiers and employees like they were her own family," said Swarts. "She encouraged each person and truly cared about them. She is fiercely loyal to the people she considers family and will defend them to her last breath. She is also a realist who expected people to adhere to the standard and do their best."

    With the active duty standard retirement at 20 years, what encouraged the chief warrant officer to double that number before leaving the Army? For Robinson it was in fact more difficult to walk away than to have stayed this long in the service.

    "I think it was my patriotism - and for the love of what I do, and I still love what I do. I even hate to go, but it's time. I took the steps that I wanted to take because I wanted to do it," said Robinson.

    In early May, Robinson finished her career as the first and only female maintenance shop supervisor in the state. She leaves behind her a legacy of dedication and determination to excel in the face of adversity.

    Her advice to future leaders, regardless of gender or ethnicity is to take care of Soldiers first and foremost. If a leader encourages growth in them, they will be loyal to that leader and support them in their advancement. There is no benefit to stepping on others' on the way up the career ladder.

    "For me, it's always been about my Soldiers, not about me," said Robinson. "The longer you're in the military, you see the children come in, you want to try to push them where you wanted to be at that point. It's all about getting them to where they need to be."



    Date Taken: 06.09.2016
    Date Posted: 06.09.2016 19:44
    Story ID: 200571
    Location: STARKE, FL, US 
    Hometown: CRYSTAL RIVER, FL, US
    Hometown: ST. AUGUSTINE, FL, US
    Hometown: STARKE, FL, US
    Hometown: TALLAHASSEE, FL, US

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