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The Masters close a chapter, leave behind a legacy of community

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Vernon R. Walter III
  • 27th Special Operations Wing Public Affairs

For more than 16 years, Rick and Jean Masters have lived in the rural New Mexico plains surrounding Cannon Air Force Base, characterized by wind-blown tumble weeds, sprawling farms, and friendly neighbors. This week, the Masters will pack up their cars and convoy toward Farwell, Texas, for one last time, as they head to the home of Air Force Special Operations Command: Hurlburt Field, Florida.

In August 2009, Rick’s active-duty career concluded at Cannon AFB after 20 years of service in the United States Air Force. That same month, he continued serving as a federal civilian in the same role he filled in uniform: the 27th Special Operation Wing’s director of staff. Rick’s duties consisted of overseeing Wing staff personnel and functions, ensuring Wing activities complied with legal and regulatory requirements, providing subject matter expertise and counsel to commanders and more.

In 2007, the 27th Special Operations Wing stood up at Cannon AFB, making Rick instrumental in transitioning Cannon from an Air Combat Command base to an AFSOC base, as it became the home of AFSOC’s second largest wing.

Rick jokes that he can count on one hand the number of buildings on this base that have been here longer than they have, as he has been part of many military construction projects that accompanied the ACC-AFSOC transition over the years.

In January 2008, Jean was hired to be the 27th SOW’s Sexual Assault Response Coordinator, where she oversaw and implemented the Wing’s SAPRO program and comprehensive victim services until December of this year.

“When we got here in 2007, we thought it would just be another assignment, but it didn’t take long for us to see all that this community does for the base and our people,” Jean said. “That’s what’s hard leaving, because of this tribe of people that melds everyone together here, like Ernie Kos from the Chamber always says, ‘this is Ohana.’”

Throughout their tenure at Cannon AFB, the Masters felt called to continue their service for the Airmen of this base, and the community, but their calling has recently changed. Rick’s parents in Louisiana have an increasing need for Rick and Jean to be more present. 

“My parents need our assistance as they deal with increasing health issues,” Rick said. “The same dedication that we have always sought to give this base and this community is now needed on the home front, so we have made the tremendously hard decision to relocate to get close and be in a better position to help my family.”

The Masters will move back to Hurlburt Field, where Rick will serve as the 1st Special Operations Wing’s director of staff and Jean will serve as the Wing’s Equal Opportunity director, bringing the same involvement and dedication to service that they have provided Cannon AFB, Clovis and Portales since 2007. 

“It’s more than a coworker leaving, we’re losing a member of our family,” said Ernie Kos, Clovis Chamber executive director. “He’s (Rick) made a significant impact in building and sustaining a strong relationship between Cannon, Clovis and Portales. The Masters, both Jean and Rick, have been the bedrock over the years.”

Their service didn’t stop with Cannon AFB, both Jean and Rick have been heavily involved in community organizations as well.

Jean has been a Clovis/Curry County Chamber of Commerce ambassador, a board member and vice president of the local Hartley House domestic violence shelter, a board member of the Clovis College Foundation and president of the local chapter of the Air Commando Association.

Rick was involved with the United Way of Eastern New Mexico’s Youth Success Task Force, was a co-chair of the Metropolitan Redevelopment Area Steering Committee’s “100% Community” initiative and has served on the steering committee of the mayor’s economic development team.

“Prior to my assignment to Cannon AFB, I had served nearly 20 years on active duty and was assigned to a number of locations throughout the U.S. and the world,” Rick said. “I can tell you firsthand that the relationship between this base and this community is the best that I have ever seen.”

In 16 years, the list of Rick and Jean’s accolades is extensive and impressive, thus driving both of them to receive civilian service awards from the 27th SOW commander, Col. Jeremy Bergin.

Rick’s citation references his exceptional leadership, as he led a 301-member directorate and supported over 6,000 Special Operations active duty and Federal civilian professionals annually from four groups, 26 squadrons and 16 staff agencies. This adds up to nearly 100,000 Air Commandos and family members Rick has served during his tenure as the Director of Staff.

Rick was known as the face of Cannon in the community, routinely engaging with city, county, state and federal government representatives on a number of key and crucial issues, most recently to advocate for Five & Thrive improvements in affordable housing, quality education, medical care, spouse employment, and childcare. He spearheaded initiatives with the local medical community in concert with the 27th Special Operations Medical Group to lobby federal, state, and local officials to author legislation as well as incentivize specialty medicine needs of the local community and base population to improve medical care in the local area.

Jean’s list of accomplishments is nothing short of impressive. Throughout her tenure, she trained 181 volunteer victim advocates and 104,000 members on sexual assault prevention, ultimately assisting over 100 sexual assault victims through the crucial reporting process and ensuring support from leadership, partner agencies and community resources. In addition to bringing the inaugural Military and Family Life counseling services to Cannon, Jean served as the Integrated Delivery System Director and Director of the Community Action Information Board, ultimately laying the foundation for Air Force Special Operations Command’s Integrated Resilience Optimization Network (IRON) and managing their $2 million operating budget.

“The Masters’ years of selfless service is apparent not only in their citations, but in what Cannon is today and their steadfast support to thousands of Air Commandos that have called Cannon home,” said Bergin. “Their commitment to our Airmen and their families is immeasurable and irreplaceable. We are incredibly grateful for Jean and Rick, and their dedication to better Cannon and our local community.”

Nearly two decades from their arrival, the Masters are leaving Cannon and northeastern New Mexico better than they found it. They nurtured strong connections between the base and local community members and were critical in developing resources to enable Cannon’s Air Commandos to deliver unconventional airpower any time, anywhere.

Stated simply: the Masters were a guide and welcoming committee for thousands of Air Commandos over the last 16 years – and that won’t change as they head to Hurlburt Field to continue their service to Airmen.

With both of their adult sons remaining in Clovis, Rick and Jean assured their New Mexico friends that this would not be the last time they would cross paths.

“It has been our tremendous privilege to be a part of this community for as long as we have” Rick said. “We are not saying goodbye, we’re saying ‘see you later,’ because we will be back.”