Retiree Activities Office serves Air Force retirees and more

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Gregory Ripps
  • Texas Military Forces Public Affairs
The small office is found in an unexpected place, in the same building as the Camp Mabry Post Exchange, at the opposite end of the mall from the entrance. 

It's the Air Force Retiree Activities Office (RAO), which, as the name implies, provides information and assistance to Air Force and Air Force Reserve Forces retirees. But it serves even more people. 

"We serve all retirees and their dependents and survivors - anyone who comes in the door," said retired Col. Don Hobart, volunteer director for the Camp Mabry RAO, which is a satellite office for the RAO regional office at Randolph Air Force Base. The region covers San Antonio and Houston and the area southeast to the Texas border. Colonel Hobart said there were about 13,000 Air Force retirees in the Austin area. 

Colonel Hobart schedules approximately 16 volunteers to keep the office functioning from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays except holidays. Most of the volunteers are Air Force retirees, but not all. 

Retired Army Chief Warrant Officer-3 Jimmie Grimes, a volunteer who drives in from Bastrop, Texas, exemplifies the evolving multi-service character of the office. 

"Guardsmen and reservists come in, looking to retirement," said Chief Grimes. "They may not know where to begin. We might be able to save them a trip." 

Most of the people who come into the RAO have questions about obtaining records; Tricare and other insurance; reporting marriages, divorces or deaths; and retiree benefits. 

"If we can't answer, we point them in the right direction," Colonel Hobart said. "We're not necessarily the final word." 

The RAO refers many retirees to Tricare or Department of Veterans Affairs offices and networks with many more offices and agencies. The Camp Mabry RAO, whose number is (512) 782-6859, also sends out a biannual newsletter with advice, contacts and news of activities to retirees in the area. 

"The office has been in the same location since 1996," Colonel Hobart noted. "It's been there since it moved from Bergstrom [Air Force Base] when that base closed and the Air Guard set it up on Mabry." 

Colonel Hobart himself officially retired from the Air Force in 1979. Before taking his present position, he served as Air Force Retiree Council representative for Area VI of Texas where he supervised the nine RAOs throughout the state, providing support for 80,000-100,000 retirees, dependents and survivors. 

"I have known Colonel Hobart since our days together in Osan, Korea, in 1975 and 1976, when he was wing operations officer and I was the command chief master sergeant," said retired Chief Master Sgt. Fred Dickinson, who succeeded Colonel Hobart on the council and currently serves as Brooks City-Base RAO director. "He runs an outstanding operation there at Camp Mabry."