LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (January 3, 2018) – Governor Asa Hutchinson announced on Wednesday that retired Col. Robert Ator II has been hired as the Arkansas Economic Development Commission (AEDC) Director of Military Affairs effective January 9.
“Robert is the ideal person to carry on the mission of the state's Military Affairs Committee,” said Governor Hutchinson. “He has dedicated his life to serving his country and his adopted state, and his numerous accomplishments in the U.S. Air Force and the Arkansas Air National Guard will be an asset as our state works to strengthen ties with our congressional delegation and national military leaders.”
Col. Ator recently retired from military service after serving as commander of the 189th Airlift Wing of the Arkansas Air National Guard, the largest Air National Guard C-130 Wing in the U.S. As commander, Col. Ator was responsible for leading the wing's 14 subordinate units with more than 1,000 members, assets valued in excess of $2 billion, and an annual operating budget of $70 million. He and his family have lived in Little Rock since 1990.
“Under the leadership of the Governor, Mike Preston and the entire AEDC team, the state has seen strong growth in our economic prospects,” said Col. Ator. “I am very pleased to join the Arkansas Economic Development Commission and excited to continue that work as the Director of Military Affairs. The U.S. military is an important economic driver in Arkansas – currently providing 64,000 direct and indirect jobs and a local economic impact of more than $4.5 billion a year. After a career of military service, I look forward to continued work with our men and women in uniform, while also helping to further develop a strong local economy that will benefit all Arkansans.”
During his military career, Col. Ator implemented strategies and built partnerships that resulted in the increased significance of the 189th Airlift Wing, the Arkansas Air National Guard, Little Rock Air Force Base (LRAFB), and the State of Arkansas in the nation's defense by reimagining uses for existing infrastructure and seeking out new missions that ensured the Wing's viability for the future. On a national level, during the Base Re-alignment and Closure process, he was the author of the current Total Force Initiative which ultimately protected LRAFB and the Wing from closure by consolidating all legacy C-130 training under the 189th Airlift Wing. He successfully advocated for the 189th's lead role in the Avionics Modernization Program, which led to the Wing being identified as the lead unit of a $4.2 billion program and ensured the long-term viability of the wing's aircraft. He worked closely with the Arkansas Congressional Delegation, the Chief of the National Guard Bureau, and the Secretary of the Air Force to bring in a new Cyber Warfare School, which graduated its first students in 2017.
He also set the stage to add a new C-130H Test Detachment projected to add four new aircraft and 40-60 additional full-time jobs. Within the state, he developed the Governor's Quick Reaction Force, which provides specially trained assets during times of natural disaster and civil unrest in conjunction with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Arkansas Department of Emergency Management (ADEM) and Arkansas State Police.
Col. Ator grew up in England, Italy, Germany and various U.S. states. He is a graduate of the United States Air Force Academy where he earned a bachelor's degree in engineering. His post-graduate training includes Squadron Officers' School, Air Command and Staff College, and Air War College. He is an experienced C-130 Hercules instructor/evaluator and functional check pilot with more than 5,000 flying hours and is the author of the syllabi currently used to train all C-130 aircrew in the United States. Before joining the Arkansas Air National Guard, he served 11 years active duty U.S. Air Force and is a veteran of numerous combat operations including Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm (Saudi Arabia), Provide Comfort (Somalia), Provide Promise (Haiti), Joint Forge (Bosnia), and Operation Noble Eagle (Homeland Security). He is a recipient of the prestigious McKay Trophy, Jabara Award, and the Legion of Merit, among many other commendations for exceptional performance during his military service.
The Director of Military Affairs position was created as a result of Governor Hutchinson's focus on supporting and growing the state's military installations. Governor Hutchinson announced the establishment of the Governor's Military Affairs Committee in September 2015 with the mission of bringing together public and private leaders around the state to prepare and advocate for the state's military installations and missions.
For more information about AEDC Military Affairs and other divisions, click here.