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Airman brings island life to the desert

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Daryn Murphy
  • 386th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

While the majority of Airmen have their stories beginning somewhere in the United States of America, there are some whose story begins in another country.

Air Force Master Sgt. Hemi Robinson, 386th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron cargo processing section chief, started his journey in the country of New Zealand.

“My family came to the States when I was roughly two years old,” Robinson said. “My dad joined the military to gain citizenship and to start a life here.”

Being a military child, Robinson was raised in the U.S. by his American mother and Kiwi father. He said the differences between island life and the life in the fields of Kansas varies pretty dramatically, but he was always raised to embrace his Māori background.

“I'm actually part Māori, native to New Zealand,” Robinson explained. “My dad's half Māori and our tribe is Ngāti Porou. We come from the northeastern island of New Zealand.”

While he might not live in New Zealand, he still embodies the tribal culture and shares it with everyone he comes in contact with.

“It’s a unique perspective and a unique way of life,” Robinson said. “It’s very communal.. Very ‘what’s mine is yours…What’s yours is mine’.

“[As for] my part in the tribe, for the most part is just been supporting from a distance. I live in United States. So there's not much I can really do with them a whole lot, but stay in touch with them. Maintaining the relationships, that’s number one.”

While the birthplace background helped shape him into the person he is today, Robinson attributes his journey to join the Air Force to his dad who retired as a Major in the U.S. Army after 26 years in the service.

“The military was always a big core of what I was exposed to. So, I always had a sense of duty to our country. I wanted to serve,” Robinson said. “He has always been really proud of this country, even to this day, regardless of whatever turmoil or things like that, he's in love with America.”

Robinson’s family went to America with two suitcases and $40 to get them started. His father worked three jobs at a time in Kansas to support his family. After seeing a commercial for the Army, he went to sign up to become a soldier.

“Just having a thrill of life kind of drew his attention. And he got into it, he blended right in with everything that the military service had about the culture, everything. He became an army dude, a soldier. So it was it was cool,” Robinson said. “I did Junior ROTC. I was a Boy Scout, Eagle Scout and so I always wanted to join the military, I joined the Air Force.”

Robinson began his career on active duty as an airborne cryptologic language analyst, but near the end of his contract he said he started thinking more about his future.

“I got out of active duty, and I was going to school. I was just looking for careers that were nearby where I was going to school in Washington,” Robinson explained. “The main thing that they had available was [Air Transportation Specialist] and so I was like, I'll jump on that and fell in love with it.”

Since then, Robinson has been assigned to the 36th Aerial Port Squadron at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington. He deployed to Ali Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait, to be the cargo processing section chief where him and his team process over 6 million pounds of cargo a month. When talking about leadership, Robinson said that allowing his team to capitalize on their differences helps them operate at a high level.

“What they bring to the table individually is going to ultimately enhance our abilities as a shop and enhance our abilities to complete the mission. You give them the independence and the freedom to make their own decisions,” Robinson explained. “We have such an immense amount of trust, you know, we’ve given them the tools and the freedom to knock it out of the park in the way that they can and then work with that along the way.”

From leadership styles to the path he has taken in his life, Robinson has never forgot that Māori background that always brings him back to what makes his service important to him.

“It's all been really empowering because we come from a long line of warriors,” Robinson said. “I have relatives that fought multiple wars. My great grandfather from New Zealand served in World War II, my mom's father served in the Korean War as a Seabee.”

“I grew up with that pride and those values and like I said, a long tradition.”