When on June 14, 1941, the War Department officially approved building an Army air depot in Georgia, leadership considered it part of a long-range plan to prepare American defenses in case of war. Instead, the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor precipitated immediate construction of this vital installation, what eventually became Robins AFB, named after Brig. Gen. Augustine Warner Robins. Robins was one of the Army Air Corps’ first general staff officers and commander of the Fairfield Air Intermediate Depot, Ohio, from 1921 to 1928; deputy commander of the Materiel Division, Wright Field, Ohio, from 1931 to 1933; and commander at Wright Field from 1935 to 1939. His principal interest throughout his career was air-based combat logistics, and he is considered the Air Force’s Father of Logistics.
Construction officially started on the new Georgia Air Depot, 16 miles south of Macon, on Sept. 1, 1941. Bordered by the Ocmulgee River on the east and the sleepy little Southern Railroad whistle-stop of Wellston on the west, the flat former dairy farm had begun its transformation into what is today the largest industrial installation in Georgia.
Known early on as the Georgia Air Depot, it was redesignated as the Southeast Air Depot, Wellston Air Depot, Wellston Army Air Depot, Warner Robins Army Air Depot, Warner Robins Air Depot Control Area Command, Warner Robins Air Service Command and Warner Robins Air Technical Services Command during World War II.
At the end of war, as its function changed and satellite bases closed, the name altered again to the Warner Robins Air Materiel Area. In April 1974, new worldwide responsibilities led to its renaming as the Warner Robins Air Logistics Center, which was deactivated in July 2012, then immediately activated as Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex.
Today, the WR-ALC and Robins AFB are the state’s largest industrial facility. Throughout its existence, the center’s mission and responsibility have been the supply of parts for maintenance, repair and storage of aircraft vital to the nation’s defense. The major change in this mission has been the enormity of its growth and its technical complexity. In World War II, personnel at Robins AFB maintained warplanes as well as trained and dispatched more than a quarter-million maintenance, supply and logistics field team members to every theater of war.
After World War II, the number of military and civilian employees dropped dramatically until by March 1946, it had fallen to 3,900. However, the critical role that Robins AFB and its repair and supply personnel played in the Berlin Airlift (Operation Vittles) from 1948 to 1949 swelled its workforce to 11,000. Growth continued with the advent of the Korean War.
Once again the nation took notice of the essential role of the depot — then known as the Warner Robins Air Materiel Area. In one of their finest efforts, workers at the center literally unwrapped and refurbished hundreds of “cocooned” Boeing B-29 Superfortresses. Understaffed and working around the clock, they made sure that United Nations forces in the Far East had the tools they needed to fight the North Korean invaders of South Korea. The U.S. B-29s proved to be key in bombing Communist supply lines and staving off the enemy’s assault on allied forces pinned down inside the Pusan Perimeter.
The lesson of Korea was not lost on Washington policymakers. Ever since, both the Air Force and Department of Defense have always ensured that Robins AFB is adequately staffed. Robins AFB and the WR-ALC played major parts in the Vietnam War through the resupply of troops and materiels known as the Southeast Asian Pipeline.
In 1990 and 1991, Desert Shield and Desert Storm once again challenged the WR-ALC and Robins AFB workforce to provide supplies, parts, repairs and personnel to coalition forces in the Persian Gulf, wresting Kuwait from Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s occupying forces. Personnel at Robins and throughout the Air Force airlifted more supplies and aircraft to the Persian Gulf theater of war in 14 weeks than the Allies had airlifted in 14 months to West Berlin during the Berlin Airlift.
Robins AFB, like all U.S. military installations, was deeply affected by the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11. 2001. The base took up its role in the global war on terrorism, surging repair materials and spares and pushing forward sustainment and support operations for U.S. forces in harm’s way.
Between Oct. 7, 2001, and March 18, 2002, Robins AFB personnel performed remarkable service for allied forces during Operation Enduring Freedom, the liberation of Afghanistan. This performance continued during Operation Iraqi Freedom from March 19 to May 1, 2003, as allied forces destroyed the regime of Saddam Hussein.
Since that time, Afghan and Iraqi rebuilding efforts have also been supported by the men and women of Robins AFB. Even after Hussein’s capture, underground resistance has continued in both nations. However, the U.S. has remained determined to complete its nation-building effort, and Robins has continued its crucial contributions to this cause.