WIESBADEN, Germany — Maj. Gen. Fred D. Robinson Jr. hasn’t been looking forward to today.

That’s because when he walks off the parade field at Wiesbaden Army Airfield this morning, he’ll no longer be part of the 1st Armored Division team.

“I guess it really struck me — I don’t know yesterday or today … — how much pride I have being a part of this organization,” said Robinson, who has commanded the division since July 2005.

This morning, he’ll leave the post in the hands of Maj. Gen. Mark Hertling, former operations chief and deputy chief of staff for U.S. Army Europe.

In an interview Thursday with Stars and Stripes, Robinson said he will miss the division, for sure, but “what I will truly, absolutely miss is the relationship with the soldiers and the soldiers’ families.”

The past two or three days, he said, have been a roller coaster of emotions as he prepared to leave Germany for a new job at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md. He’s looking forward to the next challenge, he said, “but it’s kind of hard to look forward to the next challenge right now.”

He said he’s enjoyed his time at 1st AD and just can’t get excited when he knows he’s leaving.

In almost two years at the helm of “America’s Tank Division,” he’s had highs and lows. The highs happened every day, he said, listing off both routine and remarkable tasks his soldiers undertook, such as a tank crew shooting a perfect score during gunnery at Grafenwöhr, mechanics taking apart tank engines and cooks working on Thanksgiving to feed everyone else who’s enjoying the day off.

“Do you have some harder days than others?” he asked, rhetorically. “Yeah, you do.”

Memorial services for soldiers killed in Iraq were difficult, he admitted, but he said they caused him to rededicate himself to ensuring his soldiers were prepared for battle. There was also the difficult task of visiting with those wounded by the war, but it was the right thing to do, he said.

“The hardest part was wanting to help, but your ability to make them better … is extremely limited,” Robinson said. “Many of the soldiers, when you’re there, what they tell you is they want to get well, to come back and join their unit.” Many, because of the extent of their injuries, can’t. “That’s hard.”

Robinson himself was not deployed to Iraq. That was difficult, but he understood his mission.

“Would I personally have rather been in the middle of a fight in Baghdad?” The answer, of course, is yes. “Staying back is harder than going forward,” he said.

But, he said, passing on advice handed down to him by another general, “You cannot measure your contribution to the fight based on where you are on the battlefield.”

His headquarters was asked, instead, to prepare units to deploy prepared to fight, to bring them back and get them ready to go again, and to care for their families while the troops were gone. At the same time, the headquarters prepared the aviation brigade and Stryker regiment that had been assigned to them to deploy, even as they kept their own skills sharp.

The division and the aviation brigade already have been called up, and he expects the regiment will, as well.

But when the division heads to Iraq later this year, Robinson won’t be there. He’ll be in charge of U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command at Aberdeen Proving Ground. Given the choice between that job — a technical command that will take him away from his first love, the troops — and staying, he’d stay.

“The other jobs, I do my best to serve the bigger Army,” he said.

Because he’s been in similar positions, Robinson already knows what it’ll feel like when he hands the 1st AD colors off.

“That’s a sad time out on the field when the change of command’s over with and you’re left out there, and everybody else goes somewhere else and the unit keeps on moving,” Robinson said.

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