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Thomas N. Barnes
4th Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force (1973-1977)
Born (1930-11-16)November 16, 1930
Died March 17, 2003(2003-03-17) (aged 72)
Place of birth Chester, Pennsylvania
Place of death Sherman, Texas
Allegiance United States
Service/branch  United States Air Force
Years of service 1948 – 1977
Rank Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force
Unit 8th Tactical Fighter Wing
Battles/wars Korean War
Vietnam War
Awards Legion of Merit
Meritorious Service Medal(2)
Air Medal
Air Force Commendation Medal
Outstanding Airman of the Year

Thomas N. Barnes, CMSgt USAF (ret.) (November 16, 1930 – March 17, 2003) was the fourth Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force and the first and to date only African-American in that position. He was also the first African-American Senior Enlisted Advisor in any of the Armed Forces of the United States. CMSAF Barnes served as Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force from October 1973 to July 1977. He was key in bringing many African-American related issues to the attention of senior military leaders.

In April 1949 Barnes enlisted the U.S. Air Force and received his basic training at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. He later attended Aircraft and Engine School and Hydraulic Specialist School at Chanute Technical Training Center, Ill. In October 1950 he was assigned to the 4th Troop Carrier Squadron of the 62nd Troop Carrier Group at McChord Air Force Base, Wash.

In November 1950, aged 20, Barnes transferred with the 4th Troop Carrier Squadron to Ashiya, Japan, in support of the Korean War. Shortly after arrival in Japan, he completed on-the-job training for flight engineer duties. Then, due to low unit manning, he performed both flight engineer and hydraulic specialist duties. In September 1951 he transferred to Tachikawa, Japan, and continued flight engineer duties.

Chief Barnes transferred in June 1952 to the 30th Air Transport Squadron, Westover Air Force Base, Massachusetts, where he attended C-118 school and continued his flight engineer duties in that aircraft. In September 1952, he volunteered for temporary duty with the 1708th Ferrying Group at Kelly Air Force Base, Texas, and participated in ferrying aircraft from various depots to Air Force organizations in Hawaii, Japan and Northeast Air Command. Upon completion of temporary duty, he returned to Westover.

In December 1952 he transferred to Andrews Air Force Base, Md., and served as crew chief and flight engineer on B-25, T-11, C-45 and C-47 aircraft in support of various requirements of Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Headquarters Military Air Transport Service, and the Air Research and Development Command. It was during this time that Barnes applied for commissioning and was accepted but had to turn down the opportunity because the pay cut which officer candidates experience while undergoing training would not allow him to continue to support his wife and children.

Chief Barnes transferred in June 1958 to the 42nd Bombardment Wing at Loring Air Force Base, Maine, and as a B-52 crew chief, flight chief and senior controller. In September 1965 he went to Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash., and continued duties as senior controller.

In October 1966 he entered the F-4 Field Training Detachment at George Air Force Base, Calif., and in December 1966 went to Southeast Asia. There he served with the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing as noncommissioned officer in charge, reparable processing center; senior controller; and noncommissioned officer in charge, maintenance control.

In December 1967, he returned from Southeast Asia to Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas, where his duties were T-38 section line chief; noncommissioned officer in charge, maintenance control; and senior enlisted advisor to the commander of the 3646th Pilot Training Wing. He was promoted to the grade of chief master sergeant on December 1, 1969, and was transferred to Headquarters Air Training Command in October 1971 to assume duties as command senior enlisted adviser.

On October 1, 1973, he was appointed chief master sergeant of the Air Force. At the expiration of the initial two-year tenure, he was extended for an additional year by the chief of staff. In February 1976 he was selected by the chief of staff to serve an unprecedented second year extension. He retired on July 31, 1977. He flew for nine years as a flight engineer on a variety of aircraft, seeing duty in Korea, the Cuban missile crisis and Vietnam.

Following his retirement from the Air Force, Barnes worked at the First National Bank of Fort Worth as an Employee Relations Officer for seven years. He was then hired by the Associates Corporation of North America and promoted to Vice President/Director of Employee Relations at the corporate headquarters in Las Colinas. After retiring to Fannin County, Texas, he raised Longhorn cattle and two years in a row won the team penning at the Kueckelhan Rodeo.

He died from cancer in Sherman, Texas where he had been undergoing treatment.

Major awards and decorations[edit | edit source]

United States Air Force Enlisted Aircrew Badge.svg US Air Force Enlisted Aircrew Badge
Width-44 crimson ribbon with a pair of width-2 white stripes on the edges Legion of Merit
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Width-44 crimson ribbon with two width-8 white stripes at distance 4 from the edges.
Meritorious Service Medal with two bronze oak leaf clusters
Air Medal
Air Force Commendation Medal
Presidential Unit Citation
Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with Valor device
Silver oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Air Force Good Conduct Medal with silver and two bronze oak leaf clusters
Army Good Conduct Medal
Outstanding Airman of the Year Ribbon
Army of Occupation 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
Korean Service Medal
Bronze star
Bronze star
Vietnam Service Medal with two bronze service stars
Silver oak leaf cluster
Air Force Longevity Service Award with silver oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
NCO Professional Military Education Graduate Ribbon with bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze star
Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon with bronze service star
United Nations Service Medal for Korea
Vietnam Campaign Medal

Effective dates of promotion[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

 This article incorporates public domain material from the United States Government document "http://www.af.mil/information/bios/bio.asp?bioID=4609".

External links[edit | edit source]

Succession[edit | edit source]

Military offices
Preceded by
Richard D. Kisling
Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force
Succeeded by
Robert D. Gaylor

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