COB BASRA, Iraq – Who is Coach J Robinson?
Robinson has had an illustrious career as an Army Ranger during the Vietnam War, an Olympic wrestler and one of the greatest coaches in University of Minnesota history.
Robinson demonstrated his bravery by telling a roomful of military policemen how he listens to Britney Spears and Lady Gaga to get motivated.
Robinson is also caring. He flew to Iraq recently to motivate the troops and when he learned the government wasn’t going to pay his way, he was perfectly willing to fly halfway around world on his own dime.
All to offer a simple “Thank you.”
“When the chaplain called and asked if I could come, I thought it was the least I could do, “said Robinson, who was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2005. “I was sitting at home, and you know what that’s like. It’s pretty good. Sometimes you don’t realize that until you leave.”
Robinson visited troops all over Contingency Operating Base Basra, at each stop encouraging Soldiers and telling them to embrace their deployment as a learning experience.
“The lessons you learn in Iraq will follow you for the rest of your lives, “said Robinson, who attended Airborne, Jungle Warfare and Ranger school before deploying to Vietnam. “I’m more proud to be a Ranger than I am being an Olympian, because the lessons I learned there I’ve used for the rest of life.”
Robinson, a member of the 1972 Olympic wrestling team, addressed Soldiers on the importance of perspective, concentration, and the power of choice and striving for excellence in everything they do.
In addition, Robinson told the Soldiers that someday they would be able to look back at their time in Iraq and be proud of the people they had helped, even those they had not known they helped.
“One thing you learn as a coach, you do a lot of stuff and you touch a lot of people, and you might never see it, “said Robinson. “You’re not always going to get that pat on the back.”
Robinson’s busy schedule included wrestling classes with the 34th Military Police Company. The coach of three team national titles instructed the MP’s on hand placement and balance; “the fundamentals, “said the seven-time Big Ten Coach of the Year.
“It’s part of his striving for excellence, “said Lt. Col. Jeffery Johnson, Inspector General for the 34th Red Bull Infantry Division and an alumnus of the U of M. “A, giving thanks from the state of Minnesota, and B, helping the MP’s strive for excellence.”
While Robinson could only visit for a few days, his visit was appreciated up to the highest levels.
“Soldiers want to know three things: to know that their folks back home are alright, that life back home is going normally, and that folks back home are thinking of them, “said Brig. Gen. David Eliciero, deputy commanding general of the 34th Inf. Div., and U of M Class of 1980. “I think this accomplishes that.”
So who is Coach J Robinson? A Ranger? An Olympian? A Hall of Fame wrestling coach?
For a while in COB Basra, the answer was simple: a legend, an old Soldier, a man willing to come back out to the front to show his gratitude to the Soldiers personally.
“For me, I have to come out here to say thanks, “said Robinson.