50 years of the CMSAF celebrated

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Megan Friedl
  • Defense Media Activity
The 50th anniversary of the chief master sergeant of the Air Force was celebrated during the Air Force Association Air, Space and Cyber Conference Sept. 20, 2017.

Four former CMSAFs: Eric Benken, Frederick “Jim” Finch, Gerald Murray and James Roy, discussed topics about history, mentorship and balancing healthy work and life.

There was a 20-year span between the establishment of the Air Force in 1947 and the CMSAF position in 1967. The position was created to allow enlisted personnel to freely express opinions and share recommendations on matters ranging from mission effectiveness to personnel concerns.

During the panel, the former chiefs paid homage to the first CMSAF Paul Airey, a World War II airborne radio operator who was shot down in Germany, and served as a prisoner of war. He dedicated his 27-year career to taking care of Airmen. In 1967, he was named the first CMSAF.

“He absolutely set the example for all of us,” said Murray. “We all had the opportunity to live under his tutelage as he continued to serve...until the day he died a few years ago. We could not have [had] anyone to set a better example for us, whatsoever, in our Air Force.”

They discussed the responsibility of mentoring and guiding young enlisted members and officers too.

“As [noncommissioned officers] and senior NCOs, I think one of the most important things that we can do is mentoring our officers, especially our young officers,” said Murray. “It is important for our young officers to know the details, responsibilities and how our Airmen carry out their duties.”

CMSAFs are engaged and focused on taking care of Airmen and their families. They commit to building and maintaining a strong Air Force community, caring for members and providing a sense of belonging for all Airmen.

“[My wife] and our two young ones have taught me that people have lives,” Roy said. “People have children, grandchildren, grandparents and parents [who] need help and it’s a challenge. On the other side of that, we want the mission to get done, but we all know every once in awhile you [have] to take a knee, and you have to know when to take that knee.”

As the panel concluded, a congressional proclamation was read addressing the 50th anniversary of the CMSAF position. The U.S. Air Force honor guard also presented medals to the former chiefs, and current CMSAF, commemorating the anniversary. The medals symbolized distinguished and inspirational service to our nation and protecting those who serve on the front lines every day.