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A family business - 20 AF directors share their mil-to-mil journey

Servicemembers stand in front of 20 AF headquarters.

Col. William Barrington (left), 20th Air Force Logistics and Plans director and Col. Catherine Barrington (right), 20 AF Operations and Communications director, pose in front of the 20th Air Force headquarters, F. E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming. The Barringtons have spent a combined 48 years in the Air Force serving the ICBM mission and its Airmen. They joined 20 AF earlier this summer. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Ieva Bytautaite)

A family stands in front of their house.

The Barrington family. (Courtesy photo)

F. E. WARREN AIR FORCE BASE, Wyo. --

Something on the chart didn’t look right.  Two directors coming to Twentieth Air Force Headquarters with the same last name?  Was this a typo?  No, they each have a different first initial.  They are the same rank and are married to each other?  This is different.  But it is becoming more common to see couples working together at the same base as the Air Force prioritizes join spouse assignments and its commitment to Airmen and their families.   

Every day, roughly 100 Sentinel Warriors, Airmen and civilian, work at Headquarters, Twentieth Air Force, located at F. E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming.  Their goal is to ensure our ICBM force remains ready to conduct global strike across three missile wings, one air base wing and two geographically separated units (GSUs). Joining the team this summer is the Barringtons, a couple who have spent a combined 48 years in the Air Force serving the ICBM mission and its Airmen.

Col. Catherine Barrington, 20 AF Operations and Communications director, and her husband Col. William Barrington, 20 AF Logistics and Plans director, arrived at 20 AF a couple of months ago, after serving as group commanders together at the 91st Missile Wing at Minot AFB, North Dakota.

While this is a first was a first ever for 20 AF, for the Barringtons, this isn’t their first rodeo. After meeting at the Air Force Academy in 1993 and marrying 4 years later, they have been very fortunate to get stationed together many times throughout their careers.

“We knew early on that it was important to look for compatibility with our AFSCs,” said Cathy. “Being missile operations and maintenance has made it a little easier to match assignments and pursue our career goals.”

Like many military-to-military families, the Barringtons spent some time apart, so they know first-hand the stress many military-to-military couples feel when trying to match up assignments or make long distance work. Their time apart occurred early in their careers before communication was as simple as picking up a cell phone and calling or video chatting. 

“Before cell phones, we had to limit how often we called each other because the telephone bills were expensive,” said Bill.  

Besides being stationed apart, being a military-to-military couple can pose many challenges like matching up assignments, training and TDYs, and balancing work and family life.

“Shortly after I arrived at my first assignment, someone told me that we would never be able to make our careers work, unless we wanted to spend a lot of time apart,” said Bill. “But thanks to many amazing leaders who have looked out for us, I’ve been able to watch Cathy progress in her career without having to sacrifice my own career, our family life or spending too much time apart.”

Cathy, Bill and their two sons, Will (15) and Adam (13), enjoy all the opportunities and experiences that come with being a military family and have learned to face the challenges head on. When asked what’s the secret to making it work, they both looked at each other, smiled and said “a team approach and communication”.

“We have been fortunate that the ICBM community has focused on join spouse assignments for a long time,” said Bill.  “We have benefited from engaged leaders who kept us together and allowed us to pursue our careers.  We also enjoy working together.  Now we get to work together again at Twentieth Air Force, and make a difference for Airmen and the mission.”

As directors, not only will they be working for the Airmen and the mission, but they will serve as examples for what is possible for join spouse assignments in the Air Force.  As the Barringtons have demonstrated during their 23-year marriage, the Air Force can be a great place for couples and families. 

“It’s been an amazing experience and we wouldn’t change a thing,” Cathy adds.