78th ABW execs helping lead the way at Robins

  • Published
  • By Kisha Foster Johnson
  • 78th Air Base Wing Public Affairs Office

Day in and day out, the 78th Air Base Wing executive officers/assistants at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, work as behind-the-scenes movers and shakers.

The trio includes Capt. Beverly Lay, Capt. Russell Burt and Tech. Sgt. Luz Benedict. Their sole mission is to serve in a supportive role to leadership and that comes in many forms.

“I schedule and coordinate meetings, ensure the completion of taskers due to the wing, Air Force Sustainment Center and Air Force Materiel Command,” said Capt. Beverly Lay, executive officer for Col. Lindsay Droz, 78th ABW commander. “Schedules can get hectic. The executive team works together to ensure leadership has time carved out to get things done. We make sure they have the right information, are at the right place on time, and they are prepared for the day.”

The Hawaii native has been stationed at Robins for nearly four years. Her previous duties included working on C-17 landing gear/mechanical equipment and as a U-2 Avionics Integrated Product team lead. 

“I knew being an executive officer would be challenging, and I wanted to gain invaluable experience working at the wing,” said Lay. “There is a lot of correspondence and requests that come to the front office. This is where big decisions are made, some that can have life-changing impacts to military members and their families. Additionally, it gives me the opportunity to develop leadership qualities.”

Lay has a front row seat, watching as Col. Droz commands more than 2,700 personnel assigned to three groups, a communications directorate, an operations support squadron, a comptroller squadron and 17 wing staff agencies.

Droz is also directly responsible for logistics, medical, civil engineer, security and mission support functions, in addition to managing facilities and equipment valued at $8.1 billion and executing an operating budget of $170.8 million for the installation.

“Capt. Lay is one of the best. She gives me bandwidth to do the things that I need to do as wing commander by ensuring that I stay focused and ensuring that nothing falls through the cracks,” said Droz.

Droz described Lay as a conduit between organizations within the 78th ABW and across the installation, building relationships to keep the base running smoothly. 

“Being an exec is like being part event coordinator, part organizer/time manager, part strategist, part executive communicator, part sounding board, and a million other things,” she said. “Commanders often don't even know half of what their execs are doing to keep them on track. She is just that good.

“Lay strives to ensure that engagements and communications further my strategic vision of connectedness, accountability, and developing mission-ready Airmen. She is an amazing Airman, and I'm honored to be part of her journey in the Air Force,” Droz continued.

Capt. Russell Burt, executive officer for Col. Sergio Rios, 78th ABW vice commander, pursued this position to see how the “front office machine” operates.

“What amazes me is seeing all aspects of the base come together to support one mission as one team,” Burt said. “I didn’t realize how much the support element of the Air Force plays a factor into daily operations. I have a better understanding of how the greater team works to accomplish the bigger picture of the mission.”

Burt, originally from Franklin, Tennessee, has worked at Robins for three years and held previous duties, such as Air Weapons Officer instructor, deputy chief of exercises, training officer and scheduling officer.

"Capt. Burt is focused and prepared at the start of each duty day, and I am grateful to have his assistance,” said Rios. “Being in leadership comes with being pulled in many directions, and that can sometimes be stressful. However, with the aid of an executive assistant and even more one with an operational background like his, that stress is reduced. As a member of the 78th ABW leadership team, we get to serve as daily mentors for the executive assistants and help them become better Airmen and eventually leaders."

According to Tech. Sgt. Luz Benedict, executive assistant for Chief Master Sgt. Luis Magana, 78th ABW command chief, being a master multitasker and having the ability to switch gears quickly are important skills for the job.

The native New Yorker said there is never a typical day in the front office.

“Dealing with the challenges of unforeseen events tests your resiliency,” Benedict said. “I wanted this job as an opportunity to expand my knowledge and perspective on what the 78th ABW mission is and how it supports other wings.”

Having served at Robins for six years, the former Unit Self-Assessment Program manager and Unit Fitness Program manager said she appreciates the Airmen-oriented leadership.

“I care about the Airmen a lot,” said Benedict. “I wanted to see the 78th ABW goals regarding support of the Airmen. It is surprising to see how diligently and deeply our leadership cares for the Airmen stationed here. They make sure that our 78th Force Support Squadron is providing enough services and that our 78th Medical Group is providing our staff with high-quality treatment.”

“Every day she comes ready to work and makes sure I am on task for what I need to handle to keep the 78th ABW mission moving forward,” said Magana. “Having her assistance is key for a successful day. Also, Tech. Sgt. Benedict is someone who has a sincere heart for the Airmen of the 78th ABW, and I am proud to call her my executive assistant. She is the total definition of a wingman.”

Benedict takes pride in her position and enjoys honoring Airmen through the 78th ABW Quarterly Awards program.

“I am responsible for the coordination, review, and selection of nomination packets for Airmen,” she said. “When a candidate is chosen, the most satisfying part of the job is seeing people's startled expressions. These are the rewarding components of the job.”

Executive officer/assistant slots are highly competitive and are a temporary duty assignment of eighteen months.

“A call goes out to the units asking for nominations,” said Lay. “My unit commander asked if I'd be interested in submitting a package and I said yes. I made sure my records were correct and resumé contained all the information I thought would be needed and then submitted it through my chain of command.”

Each applicant was personally interviewed by their respective 78th ABW leader.

“I interviewed with Col. Droz and the nerves did kick in, but she was and is very down to earth,” said Lay. “She not only asked about my military background, but also asked about my family life, and I appreciated that. She also called me personally to let me know I was hired.”

Benedict said the position has given her more confidence.

“I’ve grown and learned things from a strategic stance. This role has made me more approachable, to think before reacting, to be flexible and patient. It helped me step outside of my comfort zone and learn new skills that will help me be a better noncommissioned officer.”

Lay is grateful for the mentorship she has received and glad she accepted the position.

“I've gained a different experience outside of the acquisition career field,” she said. “The colonels and command chief bring in a wealth of knowledge and experience that us execs have been able to learn from. From an operational aspect, I've been able to see all the behind-the-scenes happenings that allow the 78th Air Base Wing to execute and support the mission. I would definitely recommend this opportunity to anyone who’s highly motivated and ready to put in the work.”