Quintessential patriot caps career with presidential award

  • Published
  • By Col. Dean R. Clemons
  • 96th Air Base Wing commander
Thomas Robillard, a retired Eglin senior level executive with the Air Armament Center, was recognized recently with a 2006 Presidential Rank Award in the Meritorious Executive rank category.

He was nominated for the award due to his meritorious service for his visionary leadership as the Director of the 308th Air-to-Ground Munitions Systems Wing from May 2005 to October 2006, as Director of the 328th Air-to-Air Missile Systems Wing from January 2005 to April 2005, and as the Program Director of the Counterair Joint Systems Program Office from July 2002 to December 2004.

The Presidential Rank Award recognizes career Senior Executive Service and senior professional members who exemplify the highest level of integrity, leadership and personal conduct and who have demonstrated exceptional performance over an extended period of time.

Only five percent of Senior Executive Service career members may receive the Presidential Meritorious Executive rank award.

According to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, winners of the award are strong leaders, professionals and scientists who achieve results and consistently demonstrate strength, industry and a relentless commitment to excellence in public service, according to award criteria.

"I never accomplished anything by myself," said Mr. Robillard, former Eglin AFB Director of the Air-to-Ground Munitions Systems Wing. "It has always been my great fortune to be surrounded by world class leaders, amazing co-workers, rock-solid friends and a wonderful family. Any success I ever attained or recognition I ever received really belongs to them."

He was identified as having an intellectual capacity few people possess but that all admire. He is known to have the extraordinary ability to decompose complex issues into discrete elements, dissect each element into its fault lines and reassemble the issue and solutions for people. He has that rare combination of an agile mind and the communication skills necessary to advance the Nation forward.

His decisiveness and technical credibility established a consistent record of significant program achievements. He delivered over 1,000 counterair weapons, fielded two new weapons systems, facilitated a full rate production decision and exceeded all Office of Secretary of Defense financial goals for more than 950 million dollars, while maintaining schedule commitments.
His colleagues state they are not surprised that Tom was chosen to receive this prestigious award.

"He's a great guy and was a terrific leader for Eglin," said Maj. Gen. (retired) Robert W. Chedister, former Air Armament Center Commander and current Vice President of Operations for Proxy Aviation Services. "Tom worried about his people, and truly cared for them. His selection for this award is long overdue."

It seems as if Mr. Robillard was the model from which the award recipient criteria were written. Criteria such as "consistently demonstrating strength, integrity, industry and a relentless commitment to public service," seem ready-made to describe what Mr. Robillard embodies.

The measure of Mr. Robillard can be found in his accomplishments and his advancement of the national objectives. For instance, he is best known internationally for his work with the Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System. As Deputy Program Manager for this program, he ensured the combat ground picture was captured and fused accurately in order that attacks on enemy forces and protection of allied forces were accurate and timely.

As the Program Manager of the National Airspace System in Global Air Traffic Operations Mobility Command and Control Systems Program Office, he led the modernization of the nations" Air Traffic Control Radars, Terminal Controller Automation Systems and Voice Switching Networks.

In this century alone, Mr. Robillard has completed a body of work that most professionals would be thrilled to have accomplished in a life time. He has been a Director of Acquisition Center of Excellence at the Electronic System Center, Director of Programs and Deputy Program Director for Joint STARS Joint System Program Office and the Director of both the Air-to-Air Missile Systems Wing and Air-to-Ground Munitions Systems Wings at Eglin AFB, Fla.

Mr. Robillard has been a leader in the Department of Defense during a time of global turmoil, economic crisis, political challenge and conflict throughout much of the world. The Nation has relied on him to lead in a time of globalization with all its commensurate promise and perils.

However, he is not a complex man. He loves his family, his God and his country. If you treasure your country, are willing to sacrifice personal gain and fortune, and with every breath, attempt to make real the passions and dreams of those that surround you--you can understand this simple man.

Mr. Robillard is as comfortable briefing presidents and members of Congress as he is in rooting for his beloved Boston Red Sox. He is perfect in a tuxedo but prefers to live the life of a denim credo, "Git 'er done."

Friends say he is a man who can diffuse a tense situation among colleagues with a quip delivered with perfect comedic timing. Those who count Tom and Mary Robillard among their friends are better for having known them.

He has the amazing ability to embolden the weak, encourage the strong and fashion teams from all. He is the guy they seek out to ask for counsel when troubled or up against the seemingly impossible task.

Mr. Robillard is the man who understands the present human condition relative to the past and in context with the future's potential. He has the patience of a polite diplomat but would also be chosen first to fill out a rugby scrum.

He earned his spurs, shouldering the burden of equipping the U.S. for the Cold War providing tactical radar systems, airborne command and control systems and strategic Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance programs, also known as C4ISR. He helped underwrite the Reagan administration challenge to, "Tear Down this Wall," and saw his work employed in Desert Shield, Desert Storm and countless operations since.

Mr. Robillard caps his impressive 30-year career and in Robillardesque fashion by recognizing his many teammates and comrades along the way.

"Acquisition is first and foremost a difficult team sport that can weary the soul," he said. "We have been graced by the work of those who have gone before us and those who continue to serve. It was great seeing Steve Butler and Bob Arnold recognized for their great service. The dedication, hard work and selfless devotion that today's acquisition warriors bring to the fight every day is eye watering. Serving with them and being part of that team has truly been my pleasure and my honor."

Mr. Robillard is a 1973 graduate of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and he entered federal service the same year. He was appointed to the Senior Executive Service in July 2002, and retired from civil service in October 2006.