Cassie Barlow

Cassie Barlow, USAF 1989-2014

Cassie was born in Buffalo, New York in December of 1965 becoming the middle child of Vincent and Whilma Rizzo.  A city girl until middle school when her family moved to the country, Cassie was raised in very close-knit faith-filled Italian family. 

Cassie excelled in academics and sports at Starpoint High School in Lockport New York. She was a four-sport athlete competing in cross-country, volleyball, track and field, and basketball. She was the Valedictorian of her graduating class in 1984.

Cassie’s academic achievements were rewarded with a four-year Air Force ROTC scholarship to the prestigious Georgetown University where she studied psychology. Her original goal was to serve four years in the Air Force and then return to civilian life practicing as a clinical psychologist. When the Air Force offered her an opportunity to earn her PhD, she quickly accepted heading next to Rice University in Houston Texas. She stayed there for three years earning her PhD in Industrial/Organizational Psychology. After graduation the Air Force would send Cassie on 13 different assignments at various locations around the world.  Cassie’s favorite assignments were her Command assignments where she was blessed to lead Airmen from many different career fields. 

Cassie had family members who served in WWII and Vietnam, but the military was not something that she was thinking about as she progressed through high school. The opportunity to serve and have her education paid for by the military was the main factor in her decision to join the Air Force. Cassie specifically chose the Air Force because of the positive way women were treated in this branch. Cassie joined the Air Force in 1984 as a freshman at Georgetown. She attended ROTC camp during the summer after her sophomore year. “ROTC Camp was in Plattsburgh NY and I loved the camaraderie that was part of our lives every day.  We did everything as a flight and I really enjoyed it.” 

Cassie was sent to Keesler AFB in Mississippi for technical school training in Information Management, her initial career field in the Air Force. This would be a life changing experience for her. “I was most excited during the training when they talked about leading people.  I learned through my years in the AF that I was a student of leadership and that I loved to lead.”

Cassie received her commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in 1988. Lt. Cassie Rizzo’s first duty station was at Mather AFB in Sacramento California. She would stay there for four years, with four different duty assignments. Her personal life also changed while at Mather.  “I met my husband Tim at Mather and we have been together ever since.” (The couple recently celebrated 28 years together.)

It was at this point in her military career, that now a Captain, Cassie was offered the PhD opportunity, so she moved to Rice University for graduate school. Once she was awarded her Doctorate, the Air Force moved her to Wright Patterson AFB, Ohio where she was a behavioral scientist assigned to the Air Force Research Laboratory. Cassie and Tim welcomed the birth of their daughter Emma while at WPAFB.

The Air Force Academy located at Colorado Springs Colorado was her next stop, where for the next two years she took on the duties of an institutional researcher as well as being the speech writer for the Superintendent of the academy.

Major Barlow would then be sent to study at the Air Command and Staff College in Montgomery Alabama for one year. At the end of her studies at the college Major Barlow was assigned to the Air Force Senior Leader Management Office in the Pentagon.

“This was a fantastic experience where I was able to work on developing the next generation of senior leaders for the AF.”

Lt. Colonel Barlow’s military journey continued onto Davis Monthan AFB, where she served as the Mission Support Squadron Commander. “I loved being a squadron commander because of the direct interaction I had with Airmen every day.” From there it was back to school for a year at the Industrial College of the Armed Forces in DC before heading to Germany to serve in the European Command. (While off duty the family enjoyed being able to travel throughout Europe.) Barlow was then assigned to RAF Lakenheath in England where she served as the Mission Support Group Commander. After a stop at NORAD/Northcom, Colonel Barlow finished her military career as the Air Base Wing Commander at Wright-Patterson.

With her journey returning the family to the Dayton area Cassie made the decision to retire and reenter civilian life. “We love the area and really feel at home here. This community is very welcoming to veterans.”

The now “civilian” Cassie shares that the transition has been very smooth, “I feel like I have been able to extend my military career into my civilian career.  I have been focused on Workforce Development for my entire career and I love the fact that I can continue to work in this area.  I am currently the President of the Southwestern Ohio Council for Higher Education. We work every day to build the next generation of workforce for our region, our state and our nation.”

(The mission of SOCHE is to bring together colleges and universities to collaborate in order to “increase opportunity, propel change, and promote education.”)

Cassie speaks out to all women considering joining the military or making the military a career. “I would encourage them to go for it.  The opportunities are endless!”

Colonel Cassie Barlow’s 26-year military journey is a testimony of the endless opportunities available for women in the US military.

Thank you for your service Colonel!!!!