Mission Support Across Four Generations
by U.S. Air Force Joseph Mather, 78th ABW PA
March 16, 2022
Since 1941 Warner Robins, Georgia, has been home to the families who built and have sustained what is now known as Robins Air Force Base.
Originally named the Georgia Air Depot in 1941, the War Department designated the base as an aircraft maintenance and supply depot.
Today, Robins Air Force Base is the largest single-site industrial complex in the state, employing a workforce of over 23,000 total force employees, with some families having worked on the base since its beginnings.
G. L. Arflin, part of one of those families, worked at the base from 1955 to 1988. Before him, his father Garnett Arflin worked as a carpenter at the base woodshop from 1945 to 1946.
Ryan Arflin, left, Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex Training Data Analysis and Training Modernization specialist, his grandfather G. L. Arflin, center, and father, Steve Arflin, both Robins Air Force Base retirees, visit the Museum of Aviation at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, March 10, 2022. Four generations of the Arflin family have supported the Air Force sustainment mission at Robins for almost 80 years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Joseph Mather)
“My father was from an agricultural community,” he said. “He told me when he went to Robins they were building the biggest city he had ever seen.”
G. L. Arflin, an 89-year-old native of Unadilla, Georgia, said after serving overseas he wanted to work at Robins himself.
“After I returned from the Korean War serving in the Army, I decided to seek employment at Robins,” he said. “Robins was known as having the best benefits and stable employment with opportunities to advance one’s career with great retirement benefits.”
His son, Steve Arflin, now 62 years old, recently retired from working at Robins. He began his career at the installation as a sheet metal mechanic in 1987.
“I wanted to work at Robins for several reasons,” he said. “First, because I admired my father and wanted to follow his career legacy and also to protect the freedoms we enjoy.”
Steve Arflin said his father shared stories about how his grandfather was helping in the construction of the base while world events unfolded.
“My father told stories about the Cuban Missile Crisis and how that impacted our country and communities,” he said. “It has been important to press upon my son how important the warfighter is to the success of Robins.”
Rounding out the current generations of Arflins at Robins is Steve Arflin’s 27-year-old son, Ryan Arflin. The fourth generation base employee is a Training Data Analysis and Training Modernization specialist with the Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex.
Ryan Arlfin said when he was a teenager his dad would come home talking about the Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st Century, otherwise known as AFSO 21.
“He would talk about lean processes and lean management,” he said. “It had a huge impact on me and how I viewed the world.”
When he got to college, the youngest Arflin took all the business and management statistics classes he could.
“I knew how important those principles are to private and Department of Defense industries employers,” Ryan Arflin said. “I really wanted to find a job that offered a variety of options for growth and a stable lifestyle.”
Ryan Arflin said, at first, he did not want to live or work around Warner Robins.
“My father was pretty shocked when I told him I wanted to work on the base,” he said. “After six years away from home I really wanted to be closer to my nephew and other loved ones.”
Like his father, grandfather and great grandfather before him, Ryan Arflin went to work on the base.
“I knew the advantages that it offered my father and grandfather,” he said. “I decided it would be a great way to start off my career as well.
“I began working with the WR-ALC Training Office as an intern three years ago,” Ryan Arflin continued. “I started out teaching safety related courses and developing analytics to analyze training effectiveness, efficiency and workforce health in terms of training.”
Today Ryan Arflin works at the WR-ALC as a specialist with data analytics for training and training modernization.
“I fit into sustainment by ensuring personnel are trained in mission critical tasks and safety requirements,” he said. “I communicate regularly with group training managers and monitors to help them audit training data for training needs.”
Ryan Arflin said depot maintenance is not something people outside the gate get to experience.
“I love sharing this common experience with my father and grandfather,” he said. “There is so much wisdom and insight to be gained. It is awesome”
Though times have changed, Steve Arflin recognized the Team Robins mission remains the same.
“When I retired in 2013, technology had increased an incredible amount,” he said. “Every office worker had a computer as well as most technicians. But our job was still to support the warfighter by giving them what they need when they need it.
“I am proud of my family’s legacy that has supported the warfighter for almost 80 years,” Steve continued.
G. L. Arflin said it is gratifying to look back at what his father started and that his family from Unadilla could play a long-standing role in the protection of our national security.
“We had no idea that four generations of our family would have careers at Robins,” he said. “We are very thankful that Robins came to this area, and that it has always been a great place to work and serve our country.”
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