Retired HARB commander travels 1,300 miles to return one full year to Airman

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Katie Cassandra
  • 482d Fighter Wing Public Affairs

The military is known for its unique culture, a strong sense of brotherhood understood best by those who have served, and a language filled with jargon and acronyms that can be confusing to many.

As someone who has served in the Air Force Reserve for a decade, I can attest to the challenges of understanding these terms. One term that took me six years to grasp was "R/R year," which stands for Retention/Retirement year.

In the Reserve, retirement is determined by a point system, requiring members to accumulate at least 50 points during their individual R/R year for those points to count towards completing another good year toward their retirement.

For example, my R/R year is from August 11 to August 10. If I fail to accumulate 50 points during that 12-month period, that entire year will not count towards my retirement.

I always assumed that if I never missed any drill weekends and completed my two-week annual tour requirement each year that I would accrue the necessary points for a good R/R year for retirement.

However, in 2019, when I manually counted my R/R years after serving in the Air Force for many years I realized I’d not been performing my duty based off my R/R year. This resulted in my calculations being wrong and I missed a good year by one point back between 2017 and 2018. Despite my efforts to rectify the situation, it was too late.

Fast forward to October 26, 2022, when I had my first child. With 17 good years in the Reserve, excluding the one missed year, I couldn't help but feel the weight of that error.

If I had obtained that one additional point, I would be at 18 years of service for retirement but now I’d have to perform one entire year more until I could retire.

Sacrificing that time with my daughter weighed heavily on my mind but then I remembered the commander I had when I was the NCOIC of the Dental Clinic at Homestead Air Reserve Base in Florida; Col. Kenneth Wright, former 482d Medical Squadron commander.

He gave his contact information, including his personal cell phone number, to everyone under his command and encouraged us to reach out if we ever needed anything.

Not expecting much but desperate for help, I decided to email him in April 2023. To my amazement, he responded the same day. Now retired and living in Springhill, Louisiana, he was very eager to help me.

In July, Col. Wright called to tell me that he was at the Air Reserve Personnel Center in Colorado and was speaking face-to-face with the person who could correct my points. A few hours later, I received an email stating my points had been updated. In just a couple of hours, I went from 17 good R/R years to the full 18 years I had anticipated.

After professing my profound gratitude, I asked what he was up to in Colorado to which he responded, "Honestly, I was just taking care of your points."

Throughout my military career, I have encountered a few individuals who have made a significant impact not only on my professional life but also my personal life. I can’t help but to feel immense gratitude when I think of how blessed I am to have these people in my life.

They serve as a reminder that I’m not alone and that it’s okay to ask for help. Col. Wright doesn’t expect anything in return for his actions to help me, but I have made it my mission in life to pay it forward in any way I can. Although I may not be able to fly out to Colorado, I’m more than willing to do all that I can to help and support anyone, just as Col. Wright supported me all those years later.

Editor’s Note: Tech. Sgt. Katie Cassandra is the 920th Aeromedical Staging Squadron NCOIC of Clinic Operations at Patrick Space Force Base, Florida.