MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. --
She skimmed by the crowds of people in the narrow hall, moving her eyes rapidly to each door she passed at the Air Force Academy in Colorado. Her eyes fell on the training grounds for the Drum and Bugle Corps.
A myriad of people spoke to her, but there was one snare drummer that stood out.
“He was the only upperclassman that wasn’t a jerk,” Col. Catherine Barrington, 91st Operations Group commander, said with a smile. “There wasn’t anything romantic, he was just a really nice person.”
A year and a half passed as friends until their relationship was tested.
“I had a death in the family and a lot of trouble getting to them,” said Cathy. “When I told him, he not only let me borrow his car, but was really supportive of me. It was kindness that you don’t find often.”
After this incident, they grew closer. During a trip to Aspen, Colorado, to perform a parade, he took a leap of faith and asked her on a date. Although she was hesitant, she agreed.
“After another week of being around one another and him asking me out on another date, I couldn’t deny that there was something about him that made me want to be with him,” said Cathy.
A few months before his graduation, they began dating.
One May evening, the couple was walking through the streets of the Academy. Their eyes fell on the chapel, bringing questions to their minds. “Do you think we’re going to get married one day,” said Col. William Barrington, 91st Maintenance Group commander. That one question, spoken aloud, brought Cathy over the moon.
“At first, I had been dreading his graduation since I didn’t know if our relationship would last,” said Cathy. “I loved him at this point and was afraid that we would grow apart after he graduated. This question brought back my fears.”
Bill was stationed in Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, directly after his graduation in 1995. In the summer of ‘96, Bill came back to see Cathy and proposed. Another year later, they were married.
“It was a very special day, both exciting and joyful,” Cathy said. “I was absolutely thrilled to be marrying him.”
That year, Cathy graduated from the Academy and was assigned to Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, for a year of special training. They were now 2,730 miles apart.
“That last year was difficult, but we managed to make it work,” said Bill. “I would call her one week then she would call me the next to keep the phone bill from getting too high.”
During her training, she received her next orders to F.E. Warren AFB, Wyoming. Since they were married military-to-military, she knew that they would meet again there with orders, albeit a few months apart.
The marriage made the military aspect of their relationship a little tricky, but their senior leaders had their best interests in mind, said Cathy.
“We couldn’t be in each other’s chain of command,” said Bill. “Due to that, they switched us around a lot as we progressed through our careers. We could both be flight commanders, but once I put on major, it proved a little more difficult.”
Besides the occasional temporary duty location for training, Bill and Cathy have been fortunate enough to be stationed together throughout their careers. Even now, with both being colonels, they are not separated. Instead, they managed to make it far in their careers as group commanders at Minot AFB, North Dakota.
“We’re in a unique situation here,” said Bill. “With us being ops and maintenance, we’re able to work out a lot of issues and scheduling together.”
Bill and Cathy have two children, Will, 13, and Adam, 10. No matter what is going on, they have managed to have at least one parent at almost every event their kids are involved in, including baseball, cross country and instruments.
“Bill and I coached their baseball teams starting with T-ball, but they have recently outgrown our coaching ability,” said Cathy. “It’s a challenge, but we make it work.”
“There’s always going to be challenges,” added Bill. “We have to balance work and family, TDYs, etcetera. As the day goes on, someone has to break off to take care of the kids.”
They also ensure when they’re finishing their degrees or professional military education, there’s enough time to study and assist each other.
“I know I benefit from his guidance and the discussions we have about leadership, the Air Force and other professional aspects,” said Cathy. “I like to think we help each other out.”
As they progress further in their careers and personal life, they know that there is a time when they will leave the military. Regardless, they know they can rely on each other.
“He is the love of my life, a terrific role model, a great leader and my closest friend,” said Cathy. “Being a parent, a wife and an officer is demanding, but I have the best teammate in the world.”