Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas --
Despite COVID-19, technology allowed the annual Air Force Retiree Council to continue its 48-year history of meeting. The council gathered together virtually Aug. 27-28 to address the latest Department of the Air Force retiree interest items and concerns.
Since its inception in 1972, the council, which serves as a link between the Department of the Air Force retiree community and the chief of staff of the Air Force, normally meets at the Air Force’s Personnel Center in May. This year, because of the pandemic, the council and briefers met virtually using web-based conferencing to discuss issues affecting retirees, family members and surviving spouses worldwide.
“As always, meeting in person provides some face-to-face interactions that can’t be replaced,” said Lt. Gen. Stephen Hoog, Air Force Retiree Council co-chair. “With Zoom we were able to bring in a wider audience; this opened our eyes to the possibility of more frequent interaction as a team throughout the year. Overall, a big success for the entire team and a tool we’ll add to our overall program.”
The council is comprised of two co-chairmen currently appointed by the CSAF and 15 geographical area representatives. There are also four members-at-large who bring special knowledge regarding medical, legislation and spouse matters.
This year, Retiree Activities Office staff members worldwide were also able to attend the meeting because it was web-based and no travel and lodging were required.
Representatives from the Defense Finance and Accounting Service, Air Force Surgeon General, Army and Air Force Exchange Service, Defense Commissary Agency, Military Officers Association of America, Air Force Association, Air Force Sergeants Association, and Department of the Air Force DEERS office briefed the council. Representatives from the secretary of the Navy’s retiree council also attended.
Each year, RAO volunteers submit issues to the council based on common trends that arise when assisting customers and offer recommendations on how to help the retiree community overall.
This year’s concerns focused on the availability of appointments at military treatment facilities; indefinite ID cards for spouses and widows; and the ability to communicate with local retiree communities.
“The council meetings are key because that is where we get the issues and feedback needed to bring the CSAF and Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force up to speed on all the factors affecting their retiree populations,” said Hoog. “Airman for Life begins at the highest levels within our Air Force—it is the council’s job to help make that connection.”
The Air Force currently has about 685,000 military retirees and more than 200,000 surviving spouses.
“Given the ever-declining numbers of those that serve in our military, the power of this population and the connection they have with our Department of the Air Force and the community will be foundational to our success in maintaining and gaining the support of the American people and our allies around the world,” said former Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James Cody, Air Force Retiree Council co-chair.
“Literally thousands of retired Airmen and their families continue to support those that serve today, and they tell the Air Force story across the globe,” said Cody. “The strength and the power these patriots bring to the current force and civilian population is priceless and essential to the future of our Air Force.”
The Department of the Air Force has 96 RAOs worldwide and area representatives on the council who oversee offices in their region. RAOs, staffed by volunteers from the retiree community that include surviving spouses and sister service members, serve as information and referral centers to assist retirees and survivors with myriad actions.
“Normally, we cite volunteer hours and examples of all the other great work our retirees bring to any installation, but in truth they help tell the Air Force story and keep alive the traditions of service, integrity and excellence in everything they touch,” added Hoog. “A passion for our Air Force and its people -- both active and retired -- is needed for our service and great nation.”
The Retire Council serves both Air Force and Space Force personnel and their families. Additional adjustments will be made as we continue to stand-up and source the Space Force.
For more information on the council, which is administratively supported by the AFPC Airman and Family Sustainment Branch, and RAOs, visit https://www.retirees.af.mil/Library/Council/ and https://www.retirees.af.mil/Library/RAOs/, respectively.