Halls interspersed four children among high-ranking military careers
Veterans Spotlight - Part II
April 14, 2022
CYGNET LAKE – Part I of the Veteran Spotlight on Mike and Robin Hall covered each of their commissions in the Army – Mike in the Ordnance Corps and Robin as a JAG lawyer – their marriage in Germany and their subsequent assignments in Germany where their third and fourth children were born. Part I ended with the Halls serving in the D.C. area, Mike involved in war planning at the Pentagon and Robin a Chief of the Judge Advocate General's recruiting office.
After her recruitment assignment, Robin became the Staff Judge Advocate at Fort Belvoir, located about 20 minutes from the Pentagon where Mike was working. She was at Fort Belvoir Sept. 11, 2001.
The first she heard of the terrorist attacks was when Mike sent her an email: "Robin, a plane just hit the World Trade Center." She rushed to the legal assistance office, which had a TV in the waiting room. She and others in the building watched as the plane hit the Pentagon.
Robin said she was in an irrational state. "I immediately jumped up and called Mike's office," she said. "Of course the phone lines were down. Then I ran to my office and replied to his email."
That message didn't get through until six months later. She said, "It was just bizarre. I didn't hear that Mike was okay until like 7:30 at night. Yeah, it was scary!"
Mike said, "Well, I didn't get blown up or burned up, but my office did. At the time, I was down the hall a couple hundred feet."
They both knew people killed in the attack-Robin spoke of a three-star general, of a friend's husband one month away from retirement. Mike explained, "They were at a staff meeting when the plane hit."
He said, "We got real busy after 9/11. Actually, starting 9/12."
"The world changed for us," Robin added. "The Army went into 24/7 operations. Mike routinely worked from like seven at night until seven in the morning at the Joint Operations Center."
Robin's day began at 5:30 a.m. What time she returned home varied widely, sometimes not until 10:30 p.m. She and Mike didn't see much of each other, nor did their kids see much of them. Luckily the arrival of their third child had already convinced them they needed to employ a nanny. Robin related coming home one night and apologizing for the late hour and the nanny replied, "No, no. This is how I do my part."
Though a Lieutenant Colonel by then, Robin recalled standing guard duty at the base front gate on Christmas and again on New Year's because she didn't want her enlisted soldiers to have to do it during that traumatic time.
As the urgency created by 9/11 finally eased somewhat, Robin got her dream assignment. She was to become a Circuit Courts-Martial Judge, stationed in Wuerzburg, Germany. Mike, however, was being assigned to Bamberg, Germany, two hours from Wuerzburg. More concerning, her job would entail traveling a "circuit" of cities in Germany, Italy, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Kuwait and Iraq. His job would probably include a long deployment to a foreign country.
For the first time in their 15-year marriage, they were unable to align their separate assignments to keep their family close together. That, a renewed focus on the needs of their four children ages 10, nine, five and four, plus the fact that he already had 21 years in, made Mike decide it was time for him to leave the Army. He retired in August 2002 as a Lieutenant Colonel.
That turned out to be an ideal solution because Mike was able to take care of the kids while Robin was away for long periods. She said, "The kids thrived with him at home." In his spare time, Mike found he enjoyed building furniture and running the local ski club.
In the meantime, Robin enjoyed being a judge, even though the schedule was crazy.
She said, "We would fly to Kuwait and I would try cases in Kuwait. Then we'd take a C-130 to Baghdad and try cases in Baghdad. Blackhawk up to Tikrit and try cases in Tikrit. Go to Mosel, back to Baghdad, back to Kuwait, back to Germany. The cases entailed everything from mail larceny to murder cases. I tried one of the prisoner abuse cases. Rape, sexual assault, regular assault, drug cases – anything you can imagine in the court of military justice.
Interesting practice of law, interesting experiences – yeah it was kind of cool."
Nevertheless, after three years traveling the circuit and 20 years in the Army, Robin felt burned out and ready to retire. She left the Army with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in 2005. The Halls moved to Missoula, Montana.
Mike said, "I convinced her to let me come back to the mountains."
Robin added, "It's a great place to raise kids, for sure."
The Halls reiterated several times how proud they were of their children. The two oldest followed their parents into Army careers. Victoria is a captain and doctor pursuing family medicine. Matthew, also a captain, is a Chinook helicopter pilot and commanded a Chinook Company in Afghanistan. Katya will be graduating this month with a master's degree in musicology. Jack is the Director of Finance and Administration for the Missoula Downtown Partnership.
In 2019 Mike and Robin moved to Cygnet Lake in the Swan Valley. At the time, they both still had jobs in Missoula, Mike at Montana Ace Hardware and Robin as a Montana judge with the Department of Health and Human Services, Child Support Enforcement Division. For about a year and a half they commuted to work together, Mike drove while Robin read aloud from "The Gathering Place," about the Gordon Ranch, or "Young Men and Fire" – "a lot of stuff about this area," Robin said.
In 2021 they retired again, though Mike still has not caught on to how that is supposed to work. He is presently working with Matthew Brothers Construction in Condon. Robin, however, is enjoying the retired life, playing Bridge, going to her book club, quilting and doing wonderful carvings with the chainsaw Mike gave her for her birthday.