Constituent Spotlight: Howard Robinson
Former National Guard commander reveals secrets of good leadership
Howard Robinson’s 30 years of commanding troops in the Illinois National Guard has taught him that patience is essential to good leadership.
“I don’t believe in firing or kicking people out the door—that’s not my way,” said Robinson, who recently retired from his post as principal advisor to the adjutant general of Illinois.
“I believe in giving people the opportunity and leading them in the right direction. The best leaders have compassion, but they’re firm as well. My job has been one of a mentor—preparing future leaders to take over.”
Robinson’s family knew early on that he was destined for the military. When he was a young boy, he’d wake up his brothers late at night when the National Anthem was playing on TV and insist they salute. He used to play with toy soldiers and would give his brothers army ranks. He also came from a military family. His father fought in World War II as part of the 761st Tank Battalion assigned to General George Patton’s Third Army. One of his uncles served in the Korean War; another served in Vietnam and earned the rank of general.
“I always looked up to him,” Robinson said of his uncle, General Donald L. Scott. “He was one of my mentors. He’s the one who convinced me to go into the Army National Guard—and the rest is history.”
Robinson entered the Guard in 1983 as a fire support specialist and ultimately rose to the rank of command sergeant major, serving under Major General William Enyart, Jr., who is now a member of Congress representing Illinois’s 12th district. Together, they oversaw the training of approximately 13,000 Illinois National Guardsmen, both Army and Air. Robinson’s primary focus as senior enlisted advisor to the adjutant general was to provide leadership and guidance, and to ensure soldier, airman and family readiness at all times.
“General Enyart was one of the greatest bosses I ever worked for—awesome,” said Robinson, a resident of Olympia Fields and a former longtime resident of Hazel Crest. “He believed in my leadership.”
Robinson said the biggest joy of his career was interacting with soldiers and airmen.
“They put their lives on the line and sacrifice a great deal without complaining about the job they have to do. They always rose to the occasion and did what they needed to do for us to maintain our safety and freedom.”
When Robinson headed the 122nd Field Artillery Battalion, his troops were deployed to New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, patrolling the neighborhoods alongside city police.
“When my soldiers got into a situation, they knew what they needed to do. They did a great job. I’m proud to say that I had very disciplined soldiers. It’s all about discipline.”
In his retirement, Robinson is focused on two goals: finishing his master’s degree in health administration at Governors State University and helping other veterans.
“My ultimate goal is to work for the Department of Veteran Affairs in an executive capacity, assisting veterans and their families. The biggest problem I find is getting information to veterans. I want to talk with other organizations to see if I can be of assistance and do my part to inform veterans about the benefits that are available to them. I want to make sure our veterans are taken care of because of the sacrifices they’ve made for our country.”
Prior to becoming the state senior enlisted advisor, Robinson served as a health care administrator for the Cook County Bureau of Health Systems. In that role, Robinson had operational oversight for the departments of Environmental Services, Dietary, and Emergency Preparedness.
Robinson has traveled around the world and enjoys meeting people with “sincerity and compassion.”