WARNER ROBINS -- When Charles Stenner Jr. and his wife first came to Robins Air Force Base in 2003, they soon noticed how many retired people were living in the area.
“At first we were wondering why so many folks were retiring here,” said the former commander of Air Force Reserve Command. “Then in about 30 to 60 days it was very obvious. This is a welcoming community. The atmosphere is casual and very, very open, and I think just the ability to be part of a community, you feel it here.”
He had lived all over the country in his 39 years in the Air Force, but when he retired in 2012 as a lieutenant general, he and his wife bought a home in Centerville and have lived in Middle Georgia since.
After two years of mostly relaxing, Stenner has now taken on one of the most important jobs in Middle Georgia: helping protect the 23,000 jobs at Robins.
On Friday, the 21st Century Partnership named Stenner as its next president and chief executive officer, effective Aug. 1.
With Stenner, the partnership managed to land probably the one man in Middle Georgia with more Air Force clout than its previous president, retired Maj. Gen. Robert McMahon.
In 2008 Stenner became commander of the Air Force Reserve Command and chief of the Air Force Reserve, and he held that role until his retirement. He started his career as a pilot and logged more than 3,500 hours in the F-4, F-16 and A-10.
The search committee started with a list of 40 potential candidates before narrowing it to two finalists. Stenner was the “unanimous choice” a release stated.
The 21st Century Partnership is a group of community leaders who advocate for Robins Air Force Base. The most important role of the partnership is to make sure the base doesn’t come out on the losing end of a Base Realignment and Closure Commission.
“I think it’s a national asset, and I would like it to be viewed as such,” Stenner said in an interview at the partnership office Friday. “In a declining budget, I want to help this community and the base, working together, prove that we have a resource that this nation needs.”
Centerville Mayor John Harley said he couldn’t think of anyone better to fill McMahon’s shoes.
“He’s got the energy and he knows people,” Harley said. “A three-star general, commander of one of the major commands, you can’t get much better. Out of the people I know of who are available, he is heads above everybody else I can think of.”
The Pentagon has been calling for a new Base Realignment and Closure Commission to address its excess of infrastructure, but so far Congress has rejected it. With cuts that are being made, that issue is only growing, so most observers think a BRAC is coming at some point.
“You can never predict when this will take place, but as more declines in manpower and more declines in mission happen, it will become very apparent there will be facilities that are no longer necessary,” he said. “I don’t think you can predict the date and the time, but I do think that when it comes, you better be ready, and I think that’s exactly what the 21st Century Partnership has been doing for the last couple of decades and that’s where we are pointed right now.”
Stenner showed his affinity for the Robins community from the time he was appointed commander of Air Force Reserve Command. The dual role of chief of the Air Force Reserve is based at the Pentagon, and previous AFRC commanders stayed in Washington. Stenner, however, chose to base himself at Robins.
To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.