Around the world & back

I am entering my third year of retirement, over 50 years since my high school graduation–and I have been around the world and back since then.  The last 20 years were spent overseas in SECRET or TOP SECRET environments.  The first 30 years after graduation set the stage for this play.  You should not misconstrue my opening lines as a prelude to a legendary biography, for I am not famous for anything but surviving life’s challenges.  I am a simple man and, this is my story:

I graduated from UVM as a Civil Engineer; as an ROTC cadet, I was commissioned in the Army Corps of Engineers two days after graduation.  I served five years on Active Duty, the first four years at Fort Belvoir, VA and the last year at Fort Hood, TX with the 1st Cavalry Division.  Upon release from Active Duty, I moved to Dallas, TX where I lived for the next 22 years.  I earned my first Professional Engineer License in Texas then went on to acquire seven more over the next 20 years in Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont; all are still active.

While in Dallas I worked in both private and public sectors designing and building public works infrastructure projects.  I completed my military service as a Reservist in Dallas, serving in an Engineer Unit at Fort Hood for a two-week summer session; as an Engineer Officer in the Vicksburg District for the Army Corps of Engineers for a two-week summer session on two consecutive tours; as a student enrolled in the Reserve Component version of the Army Command & General Staff College for three years; as an Instructor for the Reserve Component version of the Engineer Officer Advanced Course during a two-week summer session at Fort Leonard Wood, MO.

This was easy duty because the subject matter was what I did for a living.  I must have impressed the staff because I was invited back three more times.  When that program was phased out, I became an Instructor for the Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, KS.  One of my prized possessions is a coffee cup with the words “I Did Time in Leavenworth”!  I completed my military career as a Reservist and retired as a Lieutenant Colonel.

Early in 2001 I planned a hunting trip in Alaska with my best friends in late August and early September.  Five of us flew north to Alaska and returned with five caribou and 300 pounds of salmon fillets.  The caribou were shipped to us by the processor in Alaska.  We were over our weight limit with the fish, but a bribe to the baggage handler at the airport check-in solved that problem.  We arrived back in Dallas on Sunday, September 9th.

A few months after the 9/11 incident, I received an offer from a remote Air Force Station in Alaska to be their Base Engineer.  This was a no-brainer so I made plans for relocating to Clear, AK.  Pre-deployment activities included assigning my best friend to serve as Power of Attorney to sell my house while I was away.  I arrived in Alaska in February of 2002 and my house was sold in April that year.

Living in Alaska was great – one of the cleanest places outside of Vermont.  Working there was a challenge due to limited activity outside during the months of cold and darkness.  I adapted easily and focused on the tasks at hand.  Clear is about 75 miles south of Fairbanks along Hwy 3, commonly known as the Parks Highway because it passes through Denali National Park.  I often went to Fairbanks on weekends and, on one occasion during my second winter, I drove to town with a member of my staff on a Friday morning.  At roughly the halfway point through the mountain pass shortly after 0900—still dark–I saw two red dots ahead.  My passenger shouted “MOOSE!”  I veered to the right and Bullwinkle veered to the right as well, barely passing each other without incident.  His shoulders were as high as the top of my Tahoe and he had a rack at least 4 feet wide.

I recall hearing Secretary of State Colin Powell provide a briefing on the status of weapons of mass destruction development in Iraq while at Clear Air Force Station.  I knew another Gulf war was being planned, I volunteered for Iraq duty as a Government Civilian with the Army Corps of Engineers.  I received a call in December of 2005 and my globe-trotting days commenced.

After my initial tour of duty with the Corps during 2006-2007, I went on to serve two more tours as a Contractor on the Battlefield in Iraq.  I had five subsequent tours of duty in Afghanistan performing construction contract administration.  My picture shown as a mercenary with a flak jacket was taken in 2013 along the Gardez-Khost Road in Afghanistan.

Some of my other assignments overseas included Facility Engineer Manager on Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands; Engineer Advisor for Combined Joint Task Force, Horn of Africa at Camp Lemonier, Djibouti in 2011; Director of Public Works on Diego Garcia, British Indian Ocean Territory 2014-2015; Civil Construction Manager on US Embassy in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan 2015-2017; and Civil Construction Manager on US Consulate in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia 2017-2018.

I spend my time reading at least one book per week, trading stocks, options and currencies online, volunteering for Knights of Columbus activities, as well as planning for the next hunting or fishing trip.  I also go to the gun range often as a stress reliever and to stay in practice.  I have seen 47 of the 50 States, leaving only Idaho, North Dakota and Oregon as unseen.  I expect to see the rest of the USA in my Chevrolet when I can travel without COVID restrictions.

If asked about doing the same thing all over again, the answer is a definite yes, only better!  I look forward to seeing all classmates at the 50th Reunion and hearing their stories.  This will be my first reunion; scheduling conflicts prevented previous attendance.

Craig Robinson

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