Council tackles Air Force retiree concerns, issues

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The Air Force Retiree Council meets annually at the Air Force Personnel Center here to discuss and act upon concerns and issues affecting nearly 790,000 retired Airmen and surviving spouses.

This year's council met May 3 through 7 to review topics such as pay and benefits, medical care, and base-level retiree activities and support.

Retired Lt. Gen. Steven R. Polk and retired Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Gerald R. Murray currently serve as council co-chairmen. They lead council members representing 15 geographical areas worldwide. The council may also appoint members at large who have expertise in medical care and other critical subject areas.

The Air Force Retiree Council is "a safety net for those of us who currently serve," said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz.

The general visited this year's meeting and praised the council for serving as a link between him and the Air Force's retired community.

Although they no longer wear the uniform, Air Force retirees still represent the service, he said.

"The retiree community is an extension of the active-duty Air Force," said retired Col. Thomas R. Adams, who represents Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee. "Retirees represent the Air Force as church and civic leaders, and volunteers. When the community views an Air Force retiree, it sees the mark of the Air Force, and it sees the training and experiences of Air Force careers embodied in men and women who served their country and now serve their community. The retiree represents the best advertising and recruiting tool of the Air Force."

Throughout the year, area representatives provide oversight and guidance to 109 retiree activities offices worldwide. Most RAOs are located on Air Force installations, and all staff members are volunteers. The area representatives work with their RAO directors to provide topics for each year's annual meeting based on what they glean from their respective retiree population.

The group heard from various senior leaders about current war operations, plus plans for the future of the Air Force's members, weapons and mission.

"This was, by far, the best council meeting I have attended," said retired Chief Master Sgt. Burton Clyde, who represents Arizona and New Mexico. "The visible support of our active-duty leaders for retirees was evident by the appearance of senior staff and others."

The council also heard from representatives of Tricare, Delta Dental, Veterans Affairs, Defense Finance and Accounting Service, and the Military Coalition. AFPC briefers covered various topics such as the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program, combat-related special compensation, identification cards, and current and future staffing challenges. The council toured the Center for the Intrepid, which provides rehabilitation for wounded warriors, and attended a Basic Military Training graduation at nearby Lackland Air Force Base.

The council co-chairmen will meet with General Schwartz later this year to discuss the council's findings and other matters related to the Air Force retirement community.

As the Year of the Air Force Family winds down, General Schwartz believes when people talk about today's Air Force as a whole, they must include its retirees, family members and survivors.

"Everyone is valued, and that includes our alumni," General Schwartz said.

He lauded the Air Force retirees who volunteer hundreds of thousands of hours at bases worldwide, saving millions of dollars.

The chief of staff had nothing but praise for the council's hard work and dedication.

"Thank you for the way you continue to still serve," he said.