It’s rare to get a glimpse of what life is like for a commander of a United States Air Force base.

As the 88th Air Base Wing and Installation Commander at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Colonel Cassie Barlow oversees the day-to-day operations and more than 5,000 employees at one of the largest, most diverse, and most organizationally complex bases in the Air Force.

She landed in Dayton after serving in a variety of positions in the information management, behavioral science and personnel career fields. While this may not be her last stop, she enjoys being here and is making Dayton her home.

Born to second-generation Americans in Buffalo, N.Y., Col. Barlow grew up in a very tight-knit family that understood the American dream and valued education and hard work.

“There was never a question of whether I would go to college. It was just a question of where I would go,” shares Barlow. She ended up with several degrees, including a Doctorate of Philosophy in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Rice University in Houston.

With teachers for parents, Col. Barlow, her brother and sister were involved in many different activities growing up. School always came first. “Our parents pushed us hard and were always there,” says Barlow.

Barlow’s adds that her greatest influence was her mother, especially after losing her father when she was 17. “She put us all through college on a teacher’s salary and is currently the proud mom of a professional engineer, a surgeon and a USAF Colonel,” she says.

After graduation, Col. Barlow served as a behavioral scientist at the Air Force Research Laboratory and the Air Force Academy. She was then selected to lead the analysis team for the Chief of Staff of the Air Force Developing Aerospace Leaders Program.

She also commanded troops at Davis Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona and Royal Air Force Lakenheath in Feltwell, England.

At Wright Patterson—the largest single site employer in the state of Ohio—Col. Barlow oversees military, as well as civilian and contractor employees. The base includes a major acquisition center, research and development laboratories, a major command headquarters, an airlift wing, and the world’s largest military air museum.

What Barlow enjoys most about Wright Patterson is the people. “I work with a group of very proud Americans who give it their all every day for the defense of our country,” she says. “I enjoy watching them do their jobs and giving back to the country they love.”

She adds that her biggest daily challenge is trying to squeeze value out of every single penny in her budget. “In 25 years, I have never seen such a constrained environment,” says Barlow.

She has been impressed watching her base-wide team forge better bonds as they develop new and more efficient ways of doing business, and she still encourages potential recruits to consider joining the military.

“I tell them that their Department of Defense is looking hard at our current business model. As a result, we will be investing in our future to make us an even stronger force,” she adds. “We will always be the best and brightest DOD in the world, and we would love to have the best and brightest of our country join us.”

In Dayton, Col. Barlow spends a lot of time watching her daughter compete in athletics at her high school. She also loves all the local college sports teams and is a fan of the arts culture. Often, she’ll catch a show at the Schuster Performing Arts Center or Victoria Theatre and then grab a bite at one of our great restaurants.

While she’s not sure that Wright Patterson is her last stop, she has enjoyed her 25 years in the Air Force and can’t believe how quickly time has flown. She plans to enjoy Dayton while she’s here.