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Colleagues honor General Robbie Robertson's 41 years of service

Brady Johnson
Colonel Steven Rice and Commander of the 182nd Airlift Wing Colonel Daniel McDonough gift Robertson "Robbie in a box" during his retirement ceremony. The event took place on Saturday, Dec. 4, at the 182nd Aircraft Maintenance Hangar.

Brigadier General William P. Robertson may have been retired since Veterans Day, but the 182nd Airlift Wing wasn’t done saying goodbye.

Colleagues, family, mentors, and members of the Air National Guard celebrated Robertson’s 41 years of military service on a Saturday afternoon at the 182nd Aircraft Maintenance Hangar.

“As you can imagine (with) 41 and a half years doing what I love to do...all this fun ended 11th of November 2021 speaking at the courthouse plaza in Peoria honoring our area warriors past, present at the Veterans Day Ceremony,” Robertson said to attendees. “I thought that was a fitting day to hang up my spikes.”

Major General Richard Neely served many years alongside Robertson, a Peoria native, calling him an “extraordinary airman.”

“General Robertson is what I would call a classic central Illinoisan,” Neely said after the ceremony. “Someone that is hardworking, approachable, appreciates everybody’s contributions [and] values people...values opinion. That’s why this unit (182nd Airlift Wing) has been so successful over the years - everybody comes together and works as a family. That’s what General Robertson’s known for is really encouraging younger members of the unit to bring those ideas forward and have a voice at the table.”

Robertson, during his ceremony remarks, spoke on his decades-long service by thanking the numerous individuals who changed his life.

“You will never know who will influence you outside your family,” Robertson said. “That is an ongoing experience of life.”

Robertson’s reflections of his experience in service started in the mid-1980s training as a pilot and thereafter working as a forward air controller. Soon Robertson would rise from officer through the ranks to (lieutenant colonel) Operations Group Commander in 1997.

He remarked a true highlight of his career was during America’s military involvement in Iraq in March of 2003. Colonel Timothy Hale, who attended the ceremony, flew alongside Robertson and together were called “the cowboys.”

“We did what most airmen would do in the most difficult situations we improvised and overcame. We adapted to the situation,” Robertson said. “Our airmen, our 182nd airmen they performed brilliantly. The 182nd returned home on my son David‘s birthday, August 2003, and I was proud of all of them. We came home, no injuries, no holes in the jets and we excelled at mission accomplishment - still do to this day. We had the best maintenance reliability of all the C-130s in the theater. All of them. That was not just the 182nd but it was (Fort) Polk and Little Rock. Everybody pulled up to that standard that we have. And we rocked.”

Robertson was recognized for multiple achievements including the distinguished service medal, which was given out by a couple of Robertson’s friends and colleagues including Major General Peter NMI Nezamis.

Robertson took time at the start of his remarks to recognize the importance of his family.

“Sally (Roberston) you’ve been there for almost this whole ride in the military. You had to endure in some form or fashion all the deployments, late-nights, late-night calls, and a war here or there. You held down the fort - so to say - you had to bear the brunt of it... Raising kids is not easy, especially when I am gone from our family. Being in the military can be tough and holding the family together is probably even tougher. I love you. I love you too mom.”

His father, William “Corky” Robertson, himself served as an armorer on the North American P-51 Mustang in the Air National Guard, he passed away in 2019.

Robertson gifted his mother, Dolores, and his wife Sally flowers later saying to WCBU his next steps are to relax and spend time with his family which includes his kids David, James, and Lizzy Robertson.

Lizzy herself started her service years at the Airlift Wing back in 2015.

“I grew up watching my Dad coming out here all the time and so I’ve been coming here as a kid,” she said. “My older brother (James) was actually enlisting and he kind of pushed me to do it. I came out here and enlisted.”

Lizzy says her Dad can be really funny harkening back to family memories.

“My other brother (David) and I we make funny (movie) trailers and short films and my Dad is always in them. He’s actually a phenomenal actor.”

“I’m really proud of him. He’s the person I look up to the most. We have a really good relationship and he’s like my best friend… I hope to be half the person he was out here and in life in general.”

As the ceremony ended and a small reception gathered Robertson wanted to thank the airmen and the Peoria community once again.

“I just want to thank all the people here and all those I’ve worked with throughout my career - you know nobody makes a career on their own. Nobody makes achievements on their own without the help of somebody. I just want to thank all these people and I want to thank the community for their support, not only of myself but of this wing...and all guardsmen, reservists, active duty, everybody in the area. America can’t do it without everybody working together.”

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