Defender of freedom, property
Story by SrA Rito Smith on 03/09/2019
After 15 years and three terms served, Robert Christman has gone undefeated in his race as a county clerk for Allegany County, New York.
But his public service reaches beyond his elected position; Master Sgt. Robert Christman also serves in the Air National Guard. A traditional guardsman with the 174th Attack Wing out of Syracuse, New York, Christman is currently deployed to Bagram as a command post controller in the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing.
“I actually started my career in the Army as a personnel specialist,” Christman said. “I did that for 10 years before I separated in 1989.”
After separating from the Army, he worked in marketing for the automotive industry. While doing this he got involved in helping a close friend run for a county judge position.
“He knew I had knowledge of marketing and just asked me the basics of how to do radio, print and video advertising,” Christman said. “That really piqued my interest, and I decided to help with the campaign.”
Through connections he made during his time on the campaign circuit, he was given the opportunity to run for a position himself as a county clerk.
“It was a tough race, but I had the help from all of these team members I developed along the way,” Christman said.
He won his first election in 2004. As a county clerk he is a defender of private property, meaning he maintains all records used to verify property ownership as well as keeping track of census and civil court records.
“He treats the job as the privilege that it is, works hard, and always does what is right for the taxpayers, within the bounds of the law,” said Keith A. Slep, Allegany County District Attorney. “His integrity is unquestioned, he has done far more for others, including myself, than he ever has received.”
In 2009, Christman found an opportunity to serve his country in a different way.
“I was introduced to an Air National Guard recruiter through a friend of mine that thought my talents and skills could benefit the Air Force,” Christman said.
After discussing the opportunity with his wife, they decided joining the Guard would be an excellent opportunity to serve their state and nation, and offer Christman personal and professional career development.
Nearly 20 years after separating from the Army, at the age of 49, he joined the New York Air National Guard.
“Christman truly believes in serving his country regardless of position or status,” said SMSgt. Sailanka Pangilinan, superintendent of command and control and the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing Staff Agencies. “He is an avid enabler to the fight and efforts to one day bring peace to this region.”
As a command post controller, Christman is responsible for ensuring all on-base issues are responded to quickly and properly. To do this, he and his team have checklists they continually update and maintain.
“We communicate with other agencies on the base for all incidents,” Christman said. “We are the eyes and ears of the commander and it’s our job to keep everyone informed with what’s going on.”
Christman said this deployment has taken him out of his comfort zone and allowed him to put things in perspective while seeing a new reality of the mission.
“I’ve learned a lot, Christman said. “I’ve learned that when things look tough, if you take a couple steps forward and keep moving, then you can keep learning and make yourself better. I will be a better person when I get back home, and the Air Force has given me that structure.”