Hill takes over as installation commander at Robins

wcrenshaw@macon.comJune 7, 2013 

WARNER ROBINS -- Robins Air Force Base welcomed a familiar face Friday as its new installation commander.

Col. Chris Hill took command of the 78th Air Base Wing from Col. Mitchel Butikofer in a ceremony attended by hundreds at the Museum of Aviation.

Hill has served the past year as deputy commander of maintenance for the Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex, the largest organization at Robins. It was his second tour at Robins in his 22 years in the Air Force. He said it’s the only base he has served at twice.

After taking command, Hill directly addressed members of the 78th Air Base Wing.

“I am fired up and motivated about our missions and partnerships, and I’m fired up about you,” he said. “You are the muscle that moves, protects, sustains and heals our most precious resources.”

Prior to giving up command, Butikofer said heading to a new assignment is bittersweet.

“As I look out upon this audience, I don’t see mission partners, community partners and community leaders, I see friends and family,” Butikofer said. “You will always have a place in our heart.”

Lt. Gen. Bruce Litchfield, commander of the Air Force Sustainment Center, officiated the ceremony. The change of command featured some humor when Litchfield had to struggle a bit to take the 78th Air Base Wing flag from Butikofer’s hands.

In his two years as installation commander, Butikofer earned wide respect both on base and off. He was closely involved with the community, and Hill said he intends to follow Butikofer’s example.

Butikofer is headed to a job at the Pentagon, but community members may not have seen the last of him. His twin daughters are rising seniors at Warner Robins High School, and Butikofer’s wife, Leslie, is staying behind for another year until they graduate. She was recently appointed to the Houston County library board.

Hill said Butikofer has been a mentor to him in preparing to take command.

“Your poise and character have been an example and a hallmark of your command team,” Hill said. “I appreciate your grace, your candor and your example of calm under pressure.”

The installation commander is often compared to the mayor of a city. The 78th Air Base Wing’s responsibilities include base security, fire protection, building and road maintenance and recreation.

Hill said in an interview prior to the ceremony that his experience working in the maintenance area will be a benefit in his new job.

“It will bring a texture, a context and a perspective for a key mission partner,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot in the past year.”

He also addressed recent cutbacks that were announced that include raising building thermostats to 80 degrees and cutting out routine maintenance such as fixing leaky faucets.

“The priority we used to determine cutbacks is truly based on the concept of temporary and reversibility,” he said. “I look forward to learning how we can continue to bridge the gaps between resources and requirements as we move forward in an uncertain budget climate.”

To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.

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