JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas –
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Christine Robinson, 33rd Network Warfare Squadron quality assurance non-commissioned officer in charge, recalls some of her earliest memories of shadowing her mother at her IT and Cyber workplace and watching her work in the cold server rooms.
The experience had a lasting impact on Robinson as she witnessed her mother navigate an environment where she was the only black female in her career field and office.
“I was privileged enough to have someone who works in STEM close to me,” Robinson said. “She is a vice president of IT operations at her company, so I got to see this is possible and I know not everybody sees that so close to them.”
Despite, her remarkable and early exposure to the cyber field, Robinson said she never planned to be a cyber operator.
After graduating high school in 2012, the San Diego, California, native weighed her options on finding a career or going to college and chose the Air Force. She took the ASVAB the same day that she reported to the recruiter’s office and scored high enough to be selected for the cyber career field.
“It was kind of a learning curve for me,” Robinson said.
“What I was really proud of was when I became the subject matter expert at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, for doing backups and restorations for all of USAFE file and data resource.”
As it turns out, her mother didn’t find her placement in a STEM career field a coincidence.
Tina Robinson Mitchell, senior vice president of Enterprise Security, remembers some of her first memories of her daughter’s problem-solving.
“It still makes me laugh when I think of a time when she was about seven or eight months old playing with a stacking toy,” Robinson Mitchell said.
“She cried when I tried to show her how to place the rings. She grabbed the rings from me and turned her back so she could do it herself. Little did I know that it was a glimpse into our future.”
Robinson Mitchell, who started her career as the only woman and person of color in her workplace, said that it was important for her to involve Christine in her journey navigating her career field since she knew there was not a lot of diversity and representation.
“I knew there was a missed opportunity for an entire population of brilliant individuals, but I really didn’t know how I could make a difference,” Robinson Mitchell said.
“When I’m asked what I’ve done to bring more women into STEM, my response is that not everyone can be the big hero, so I try my best to influence one individual at a time.”
They just don’t know I’m referring to my daughter--it is an excellent and rewarding career that I hope Christine can encourage others to join, Robinson Mitchell added.
Robinson said that one way she navigated the career field was by seeking out mentorship and putting herself in situations when she was afraid.
“When you put yourself into those uncomfortable situations, good things can happen,” Robinson said.
“That benefited me. It is important because a lot of times people have an idea of what someone in cyber looks like and we might not always have someone who looks like us in a career field like this.”
One of her mentors was U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Jermaine Wilson, Security Forces Superintendent.
Robinson met Wilson in May 2021 while operating as the Team Lackland Career Advisor.
She was one of the first applicants for the First Term Airman Course NCOIC position and won the Lackland Top three NCO’s of the Year.
“Ironically, she had the first interview and her drive to excel and passion to develop our Total Force Airmen radiated throughout our session,” Wilson said.
“Needless to say, she was the runaway selection. Christine is the consummate professional that possesses the innate ability and cultural intelligence to connect with any teammate.”
Wilson reviewed her records and was impressed with how she championed diversity, equity, and inclusion before it reached today’s current amplification.
“She is deliberate about staying true to her morals and values and eager to reach and help guide those who need direction especially in the STEM realm,” said Wilson.
“I foresee Christine reaching the top one-percent of our enlisted force, chief master sergeant,” Wilson said.
“Additionally, I’m expecting her to have a lasting impact on our Total Force Airmen - significance over success will be her legacy.”
Wilson described Robinson as “the leader we need now” in today’s unprecedented times, uncertainty, unrest and unpredictability for Airmen.
“She is a bold leader capable of making calculated decisions that can help shift organizational culture and bridge the generational gap between senior leaders and junior teammates,” Wilson said.
“This is evident as she was unanimously selected by her peers to become the Team Lackland 5/6 Council President, an organization composed of over 1,000 diverse junior managers supporting 274 joint mission partners.”
True to her mentor’s testimony, Robinson said her journey of transforming and mentoring isn’t over.
She has plans to continue holding mentorship sessions for peers, senior non-commissioned officers and company grade officers. She also wants to apply to be a non-commissioned officer cadre for a ROTC program.
“I would love to be an Air Force ROTC instructor and work with cadets that are going to be officers in the military,” Robinson said. “It will give me a good opportunity to influence early on and explain why diversity is an amazing thing that impacts and effects the people around you.”
I hope to impart those things because as leaders we have a responsibility to be empathic and appreciate the people around us, the different experiences and how that will make us great as an Air Force, Robinson added.
Reflecting on women’s history month and black history month Robinson said it is important to recognize what is happening now.
“Black people are very diverse and have a lot to bring to the table and I think that there is success in diversity and greatness in diversity,” Robinson said.
“We need to remember what we have brought to the table in American history. Sometimes we focus on the past, and we don’t realize we are witnessing black history now.”
Black history is American history, we have to acknowledge that, Robinson added.
“I think it is important to be in those positions like my mother and pave the way,” Robinson said.
“Black History Month shows us that we are not a monolith. Black people are very diverse and have a lot to bring to the table and I think that there is success in diversity and greatness in diversity.”
Robinson’s mother shared the same sentiment for the strides that Robinson is making as a woman.
“So many women say we will take care of ourselves tomorrow after we complete that one last thing on our list,” Robinson Mitchell said. “Christine always reminds me that tomorrow is today, and I need to come first. I’m most proud of her passion to live her best life day in and day out.”
Robinson Mitchell remembers holding her daughter for the first time, through tears and telling her that the world was hers.
“Seeing Christine working and succeeding in STEM is surreal,” Robinson Mitchell said.
“She had her own struggles with what she wanted to be when she grew up and working in STEM wasn’t something that was even on the table.”
I am happy that despite her feeling defeated with learning in a career field where she felt outside of her element, she has persevered and has found out where her strengths are, her mother added.
“If I could go back in time and tell Airman 1st Class Robinson anything, I would tell her you have a voice, speak up, you have an impact,” Robinson said.
“I would tell her to believe in herself and you belong -- I don’t think I knew the power I had in my voice or my mind."