Retired Lieutenant General Terry Robling wanted to give back to the university that had helped him set out on a career path that would take him to Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and all over the US.
Robling, who served 38 years in the military, did so by creating the Lt. Gen. Terry Robling Speaker Series, which provides Central students the opportunity to hear from military officers who help them understand why the military is a good career option.
“It means a lot to me to be able to give back and possibly help those students who are looking at giving service to their country, whether they make it a career or not,” he said.
Robling graduated from Central in 1976 and enlisted in the US Marine Corps with a simple plan: learn to fly jets, earn his wings, and then, in three to four years, move on to the next chapter of his life.
But, as is often the case, plans changed. Once a Leatherneck, Robling not only learned how to fly airplanes; he enjoyed being in uniform. By the time he retired as a lieutenant general in 2014, Robling’s plan to serve a couple of years had stretched out to almost four decades.
“I am very proud to have given 38 years of service to my country as a US Marine,” Robling said. “I was humbled at the opportunity to teach, lead, and mentor the very finest young men and women our nation has to offer.”
Robling’s career took him from flying F-4 Phantoms in Hawaii to several deployments in Japan, with flights throughout Asia. Over the years, he moved up through the ranks, learned to fly other aircraft, such as F/A-18 Hornets, and relocated to California, Washington D.C., and Iraq (where he was deputy commander of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing during the Iraqi Freedom mission).
Along the way, he earned a master’s degree in national security strategy from the prestigious National Defense University in Washington, D.C. and was stationed at the Pentagon, where he worked in the operations department for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Three years later, he was selected for the American Political Science Fellowship at Johns Hopkins University.
During his time in Iraq in 2002 as a one-star general, he served under fellow CWU graduate General James N. Mattis, who was the two-star general in charge of the division. Robling’s airwing supported Mattis’ division as they marched to Baghdad.
“General Mattis is one of the very finest military leaders this nation has ever produced,” Robling said. “Watching him very closely during combat in Iraqi Freedom was both humbling and inspiring. Everyone he comes into contact with professionally becomes a better leader and person for having known him.”
Robling continued climbing through the ranks, earning his second and third stars, while working with NATO in Italy, serving as commanding general of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, and, eventually serving as the commanding general of the Marine Corps Forces, Pacific—the Marine Corps’ largest command of about 90,000 Marines and civilians.
Over the course of many years of service, Robling received 31 Department of Defense commendations, including the Order of the Rising Sun from the Emperor of Japan and the Legion of Honour (Rank of Knight) from the President of France.
“Hard work and training are key indicators to whether any person will be successful completing a task,” Robling said. “I always strived to do my best at whatever task I was given, large or small. The educational and social foundation afforded me by CWU—combined with my Marine Corps training—helped me immensely in every job I was given, and I was very fortunate and humbled to be recognized for each of those awards.”
Robling’s retirement from the military didn’t relegate him to a life of golf or shuffleboard tournaments. He opened his own aerospace consulting business, which he still runs today, and became CEO of PKL Services, a leading global aerospace company. He stepped down as CEO earlier this year after five and a half years.