CHIEF MASTER SERGEANT OF THE AIR FORCE PAUL WESLEY AIREY
Died March 11,2009
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Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Paul Wesley Airey was adviser to Secretary of the Air Force Harold Brown and Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. John P. McConnell on matters concerning welfare, effective utilization and progress of the enlisted members of the Air Force. He was the first chief master sergeant appointed to this ultimate noncommissioned officer position and was selected from among 21 major air command nominees to become the first chief master sergeant of the Air Force. He was formally installed by Gen. McConnell on April 3, 1967.
The chief was born in New Bedford, Mass. He entered military service after two years of high school in Quincy, Mass. In 1948 he obtained his high school equivalency certificate, and later completed 62 semester hours of study at McKendree College, Lebanon, Ill. His military schooling has included courses in communication mechanics and personnel management. He is a graduate of the Air Defense Command Noncommissioned Officer Academy.
Chief Airey spent much of his 27-year career as a first sergeant. During World War II, however, he served as an aerial gunner on B-24 bombers, and is credited with 28 combat missions in Europe. After he was forced to bail out of his flak-damaged aircraft, he was captured and became a prisoner of war in Germany from July 1944 to May 1945. During the Korean conflict, he was awarded the Legion of Merit while assigned at Naha Air Base, Okinawa. The award, an uncommon decoration for an enlisted man, was earned for creating a means of constructing equipment from salvaged parts that improved corrosion control of sensitive radio and radar components.
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, Fla., where he was the unit's first sergeant. He retired Aug. 1, 1970.
MAJOR AWARDS AND DECORATIONS
Legion of Merit with oak leaf cluster
Meritorious Service Medal
Air Medal with oak leaf cluster
Air Force Commendation Medal
PROFESSIONAL MEMBERSHIPS AND ASSOCIATIONS
Air Force Memorial Foundation
Air University Foundation
Airmen Memorial Museum
EFFECTIVE DATES OF PROMOTION
Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force April 3, 1967