Barksdale officials host Charter Chief golden anniversary

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Mike Andriacco
  • 2nd Bomb Wing Public Affairs
Officials from the 2nd Bomb Wing here hosted a golden anniversary celebration to honor Air Force pioneers Dec. 1.

Exactly 50 years ago on Dec. 1, 1959, 625 Airmen were promoted and pinned as the first-ever chief master sergeants.

Called the Charter Chiefs, these Airmen secured their place in history as the first to wear the rank of chief master sergeant. Of the original promotees, less than 100 are still alive today. Eighteen of them and one honorary Charter Chief attended anniversary events in their honor on and off base here. The event was spearheaded by retired Chief Master Sgt. James Flaschenriem, a local resident and Charter Chief.

Chief Flaschenriem credited all the success in his life to the Air Force and the opportunities it provided.

"Without the Air Force I'd have wound up pumping gas some place at some filling station," he said. "The Air Force offers unlimited opportunity. All you have to do is get in there and work for it. Do your best on every job whether you like it or not."

According to the 1958 military base pay table, a chief with more than 22 years in the Air Force earned $440 per month, compared to the $5,388 per month made by the same rank today.

"When we were promoted, there was no fanfare," Chief Flaschenriem said. "On Dec. 1, our commander called us into his office and said, 'Congratulations, you are now the highest paid enlisted men in history.'"

Recounting anecdotes like that and sharing their wealth of experience with today's Airmen was also part of the Charter Chiefs' itinerary while at Barksdale AFB. They spent some time on base talking to Airmen charged with upholding the legacy the first chiefs have entrusted to them. Their stops included the Barksdale AFB Airman Leadership School and a luncheon with base personnel.

The mark the first group of chiefs left on the Air Force has proved indelible and is recognized far and wide.

"It took 11 years after the birth of the Air Force to create the rank, plus a year to select the promotees," said Col. Steven Basham, the 2nd Bomb Group commander. Now, he said, "it's difficult to imagine an Air Force without chiefs."

After all the events on base, the Charter Chiefs were honored yet one more time that evening with a formal dinner recognizing their accomplishments.

The guest speaker for the dinner was the Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz. He spoke of the ways chiefs have been mentors and top advisors to leaders, and how they have shaped the advancements of the Air Force. He thanked the Charter Chiefs for their service, and then each Charter Chief was presented with a flag flown over the nation's capitol in a shadow box.

"This, Chiefs, is your legacy," General Schwartz said. "An enlisted corps of professionals who exemplify selfless service and who continue to amass an astounding record of success," he said.

"The Air Force has come a long way from its inception and is recognized as the premier air and space force in the world," the Air Force's top uniformed officer said. "This is true today in large part to the contributions of those first chiefs who took it upon themselves to take a newly created rank and worked hard to make it the respected position it is today. They are an example for all."