Paul W. Airey
|Paul Wesley Airey|
1st Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force (1967-1969)
December 13, 1923|
|Died||March 11, 2009
Panama City, Florida
|Buried at||Arlington National Cemetery|
|Years of service||1940 – 1970 (30 years)|
Paul Wesley Airey (December 13, 1923 – March 11, 2009) was adviser to Secretary of the Air Force Richard Campbell and Air Force Chief of Staff General John P. McConnell. He was the first Chief Master Sergeant appointed to this ultimate noncommissioned officer position and was selected from among 21 major command (MAJCOM) nominees to become the first Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force. He was formally installed by Gen McConnell on 3 April 1967.
The Chief was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts. He entered military service in 1940 after two years of high school in Quincy, Massachusetts. In 1948 he obtained his high school equivalency certificate, and later completed 62 semester hours of study at McKendree College, Lebanon, Illinois. His military schooling included courses in communication mechanics and personnel management. He is a graduate of the Air Defense Command Noncommissioned Officer Academy. The academy was renamed the Paul W. Airey NCO Academy on December 13, 2006, in his honor.
Chief Airey joined the Army Air Forces in 1940. During World War II he was an aerial gunner on B-24 Liberator bombers and is credited with 28 combat missions in Europe. He was forced to bail out of his flak-damaged aircraft over Austria in July 1944, and ended up in a German prisoner of war camp near the Baltic Sea. Later, he and 6,000 fellow POW's were forced to march 400 miles to another camp near Berlin. He was liberated in May 1945.
Chief Airey reenlisted in the Air Force after completing a recuperation leave. He went to Naha Air Base, Okinawa, where he was responsible for radio repair. During the Korean conflict he was awarded the Legion of Merit, unusual for an enlisted person, for saving more than a million dollars in electronic equipment that would have deteriorated without the corrosion control assembly line he developed.
Chief Airey spent 14 of his 30-year career as a First Sergeant.
Before he became Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force, he was assigned to the Air Defense Command's 4756th Civil Engineering Squadron at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, where he was the unit's First Sergeant. He retired Aug. 1, 1970. Chief Airey died in Panama City, Florida. on March 11, 2009.
Awards and decorations
|US Air Force Enlisted Aircrew Badge|
|Legion of Merit with bronze oak leaf cluster|
|Meritorious Service Medal|
|Air Medal with bronze oak leaf cluster|
|Air Force Commendation Medal|
|Presidential Unit Citation|
|Air Force Outstanding Unit Award|
|Prisoner of War Medal|
|Air Force Good Conduct Medal|
|Army Good Conduct Medal|
|Campaign and service medals|
|American Campaign Medal|
|European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with four bronze service stars|
|World War II Victory Medal|
|National Defense Service Medal with bronze service star|
|Korean Service Medal|
|Service, training, and marksmanship awards|
|Air Force Longevity Service Award with four bronze oak leaf clusters|
|NCO Professional Military Education Graduate Ribbon|
|Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon|
|United Nations Service Medal for Korea|
Professional memberships and associations
Effective dates of promotion
|Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force||April 3, 1967|
|New title||Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force
1967 – 1969
Donald L. Harlow
This article incorporates public domain material from the United States Air Force document "Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Paul W. Airey biography".