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Paul Wesley Airey
1st Chief Master Sergeant of Air Force (1967-1969)
Born December 13, 1923
Died March 11, 2009(2009-03-11) (aged 85)
Place of birth Quincy, Massachusetts
Place of death Panama City, Florida
Allegiance United States
Service/branch Flag of the United States Air Force.png United States Air Force
United States Army Air Corps
Years of service 1942–1970
Rank Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force
Battles/wars World War II
Korean War
Awards Legion of Merit (2)
Air Medal (2)
Air Force Commendation Medal
Army Commendation Medal
Prisoner of War Medal

Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force 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, 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. Chief Airey died in Panama City, Fla. on March 11, 2009.

Awards and decorationsEdit

United States Air Force Enlisted Aircrew Badge US Air Force Enlisted Aircrew Badge
Bronze oakleaf-3d
Width-44 crimson ribbon with a pair of width-2 white stripes on the edges
Legion of Merit with bronze oak leaf cluster
Width-44 crimson ribbon with two width-8 white stripes at distance 4 from the edges. Meritorious Service Medal
Bronze oakleaf-3d
Air Medal ribbon.svg
Air Medal with bronze oak leaf cluster
Air Force Commendation ribbon.svg Air Force Commendation Medal
AF Presidential Unit Citation Ribbon.png Presidential Unit Citation
Outstanding Unit ribbon.svg Air Force Outstanding Unit Award
Prisoner of War ribbon.svg Prisoner of War Medal
U.S. Air Force Good Conduct Medal ribbon.svg Air Force Good Conduct Medal
Army Good Conduct ribbon.svg Army Good Conduct Medal
American Campaign Medal ribbon.svg American Campaign Medal
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign ribbon.svg
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with four bronze service stars
World War II Victory Medal ribbon.svg World War II Victory Medal
Bronze star
Width=44 scarlet ribbon with a central width-4 golden yellow stripe, flanked by pairs of width-1 scarlet, white, Old Glory blue, and white stripes
National Defense Service Medal with bronze service star
KSMRib.svg Korean Service Medal
Bronze oakleaf-3d
Bronze oakleaf-3d
Bronze oakleaf-3d
Bronze oakleaf-3d
Air Force Longevity Service ribbon.svg
Air Force Longevity Service Award with four bronze oak leaf clusters
USAF NCO PME Graduate Ribbon.svg NCO Professional Military Education Graduate Ribbon
USAF Marksmanship ribbon.svg Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon
United Nations Service Medal Korea ribbon.svg United Nations Service Medal for Korea


PD-icon.svg This article incorporates public domain material from the United States Government document "".

Military offices
New title Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force
1967 – 1969
Succeeded by
Donald L. Harlow

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