AFMC Command News

Hanscom’s Civilian Personnel officer to retire after 37 years

  • Published
  • By Lauren Russell
  • 66th Air Base Group Public Affairs

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – Hanscom’s top Civilian Personnel officer will retire this month after nearly four decades of civil service.

Kathy Owens started her career in 1984 after answering an ad in the paper for a government job. She commuted from her family’s 82-acre farm to a hangar at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, where she worked in the clerical field.

“I was surrounded by scientists, engineers and technicians,” she said. “Everything I was exposed to prepared me for the next [job], and I started to really understand the Air Force mission.”

It was in that hangar Owens met her husband, Scott Owens; a young and newly-commissioned lieutenant who was working as an engineer, and the pair began their Air Force journey with an assignment to Texas. 

“I was the first and only child to really leave home,” she said. “My parents drove all the way down to Texas with us to make sure we made it there safe before flying home.”

From there, the Owens’ took assignments to Las Vegas, Washington D.C., Alabama, and Florida. Owens was working in the Pentagon on 9/11; an experience she said changed her entire view on the mission, and life. 

“You never know how the tone of a phone call or the small act you do for someone is going to be the one thing that changes their life,” she said. “That day, I was too busy to meet someone in person but they were insistent, so I just met them in my cubicle to drop off an application. I found out later that that one act kept them out of the impact zone.”

Owens held onto that lesson as she continued to travel and work as a military spouse. She said it wasn’t always easy finding a job or changing supervisors; especially during one particular assignment where her husband worked in an undisclosed location, even to her. 

“That was just the world we lived in,” she said, recalling sometimes having to call a 1-800-number to reach her husband. “The jobs were amazing, but it was really the experiences and people that made it all worthwhile.”

In 2011, Owens came to Hanscom as a labor relations officer, a position she said utilized every skillset she had ever gained. She then became the chief of Employee Relations, and finally, took over as the Civilian Personnel officer here in the spring of 2020. 

“What I’ve loved most about this position has been watching what happens when you assemble the right group of people,” she said. “It’s amazing to watch my team and the way they stick up for and support each other to get the mission done. All I’ve had to do is get out of their way.”

Owens hopes to leave her team with the assurance that what you do, even the smallest task, makes a huge impact to someone and every interaction in a career is an interview.

“Anytime you’re in a difficult situation, understand that it’s really an opportunity to embrace change and new ideas,” she said.

Now, even after 37 years of service, Owens can’t help but reflect on the first time she told her parents goodbye in Texas.

“My husband shook my father’s hand and said, ‘don’t worry, all roads in my career field lead back to Dayton, [Ohio],’” she said. “They never did. I’d like my roads to lead where I need them to now.”

As far as what will come in her next chapter, Owens said she is purposefully avoiding making plans. She wants to keep her schedule open to prioritize her family and friends.

“The first thing I’m going to do when I retire is wake up, make a cup of tea, and call my dad and mom to see what they have planned for the day,” she said.