A decade ago, Chris Hill landed on the far northwest corner of Robins Air Force Base to take command of his first squadron in the J-Stars unit.
Then, his focus never drifted south, toward an office on the other end of the base, that of the installation commander.
Ten years later and now a colonel, Hill finds himself behind that desk and in charge of people in every direction of Robins 8,400 acres.
Now, he is keeping the team on course in times riddled with financial potholes.
Recently, Hill barreled into a room at the base chapel filled with young airmen. He got directly to his purpose for speaking with them.
Col. Hill asked, "Everybody know why were here?"
The crowd responded, "Wingman Day!"
He came to encourage the fresh-faced crowd, many of them far from home, as the holidays approach.
Col. Hill said, "Why are the holidays important?"
After a long pause with no response, Hill joked, "Many of you are sitting here going, 'Please don't pick me, please.'"
A voice at last volunteered the correct answer, "stress."
Stress was the theme of that morning's meeting, and Col. Hill's first six months as Commander of Robins Air Force Base.
He entered the office during a time when the constant he could count on was uncertainty. Budget cuts, two rounds of furloughs, and the hits keep coming from factors and people beyond his reach.
He said, "Commanders don't have a lot of control. Quite frankly, we don't get graded by what happens. We get graded on how we respond to what happens."
Col. Hill's solution: lower his head and plow through; the same approach he took playing football at the Air Force Academy.
He said, "We can define wins by four yards and a cloud of dust. That's a win when times are tough."
Hill looks for the little victories and encourages counting blessings. He says he's had a lot of his own.
Four of those blessings have followed him on his globetrotting career. His wife delivered their daughters on three different continents. There's now 19 moves between them, and recently, his oldest daughter counted that journey among her blessings.
Col. Hill said, "She said, 'Dad, I like the opportunity to start over and a chance to make new friends, and the chance to make mistakes and learn from them. Then, get a clean slate.' I thought that was pretty profound."
That willingness to embrace change, he says, will be a requirement of Robins people, as military downsizing occurs, and the reduction of infrastructure through the BRAC process looms.
Hill said, "When that happens is uncertain, but I think it will happen. I think this community is prepared. Again, it's not new. It's next."
He doesn't think about BRAC daily. A focus on that and budget uncertainties, he says, would be futile.
Hill chooses another approach saying, "We can drive through that with purpose and with hope and with optimism and with an eagerness to perform, despite the circumstances."
It's not impossible.
On a recent visit to the Veterans Hospital in Dublin, he found proof.
Hill spoke with World War II vets who survived tougher times, and find joy despite their present circumstances.
Most in the group he and some young airmen spoke with suffer from Alzheimer's or dementia.
One veteran said to Hill, "I'm just as happy as I can be." He responded, " That's great, that's wonderful."
A few days later he commented on the experience saying, "There isn't really anything new under the sun. It's just a matter of connecting to someone else who has had that experience."
Installation commanders typically serve 18 month to two year terms at Robins.
Hill says his next station is up to the Air Force, but at 44, he anticipates a long career ahead of him.
The two installation commanders prior to him left for assignments at the Pentagon.