Chiefs groups honor local 'Charter Chief'

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Richard A. Williams Jr.
  • Air Force Public Affairs Agency
Members of the National Capital Region and Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Chiefs Groups took time to honor one of the Air Force's "Charter Chiefs" during a small ceremony at the Air Force Memorial recently.

Retired Chief Master Sgt. Francis Collier was one of the original 625 enlisted Airmen promoted to chief master sergeant Dec. 1, 1959, as a result of the Career Compensation Act of 1958.

Collier is a northern Virginia resident but had never been to the Air Force Memorial, and Chief Master Sgt. Daniel Reeves, a member of the NCR Chiefs Group, said area chiefs wanted to ensure he and his family had the opportunity to visit.

"When the rank was first established, it was the Charter Chiefs who paved the way for all of us to follow," Reeves said. "The first chiefs led the way without the honor and prestige the rank of chief master sergeant holds today."

During the event, Collier received challenge coins from some of the chiefs in attendance and was also presented with a portrait of the Air Force Memorial to commemorate his visit.

"My most enjoyable time in the Air Force was being sergeant major of the 5th Air Force in Japan," Collier said.

Collier began his career in 1942 as a member of the "brown shoe Army" prior to the creation of the Air Force in 1947.

He spent time as a management analyst with the Air Research and Development Command that later became Air Force Material Command.

Collier was also a first sergeant in Germany shortly after World War II and said it was an "extremely interesting," experience.

"The most important tasks performed by chiefs today are to recognize and fix what is wrong with their organization, to advocate for changes which need to be made even if they are unpopular and to be both encouraging and honest in both word and deed throughout all of their interactions," Reeves said.

He said men like Collier really paved the way during a time in Air Force history when the newly formed rank of chief master sergeant had little, if any interaction, with senior leaders even at the base level.

"As the late retired Chief Master Sgt. James Flaschenriem, another Charter Chief said, 'they were left to sink or swim on their own,'" Reeves said.

As Charter Chiefs like Collier retired, a Charter Chiefs Group was formed, Reeves said, that met regularly at alumni events, stayed informed on issues through a newsletter and spoke on behalf of the organization to elements of former and current Air Force leaders.

Ceremonies like the Air Force Memorial gathering for Collier are not uncommon as a way to honor a Charter Chief, Reeves said, but this was something in which local chiefs had been unable to do in recent years.

"The Charter Chiefs support today's chiefs with their example, their grace and their sacrifice as the first chief master sergeants," Reeves said. "Our heritage and legacy belongs to men like Chief Collier and their pioneering work."