Today the Air Force said good-bye to one of its legends. The first Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force, Paul Airey, was laid to rest in section 34 of Arlington National Cemetery.
From his grave site, you can see the headstones of fellow Airmen, and towering above them nearby is the Air Force Memorial. The funeral service was respectful and humbling. There were senior enlisted leaders from all over the world in attendance. There were NCOs who heard Chief Airey speak at Airmen Leadership School. There was an Airman 1st Class, celebrating her fourth month in the Air Force by being at Chief Airey’s funeral.
It was inspiring to see so many Airmen gathered in one place so they too could pay tribute to the legendary Chief Airey. Everyone has a story about the man. Our current Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force, Chief Rodney McKinley, reflected on studying about Chief Airey while at basic military training waiting in line to eat. As the procession of hundreds of Airmen walked to Chief Airey’s grave site, you could hear so many people sharing their stories.
I met Chief Airey while at the annual Air Force Sergeants Association conference. He was getting ready to go up for the former CMSAF Panel Discussion. I was but an E-3 at the time and was walking down the hall with two other Airmen 1st Class. Chief Airey saw us and broke away from talking with a couple of other chiefs and came over to us. He introduced himself and asked how we were enjoying the conference. Being a dutiful PA, my camera was around my neck. The chief saw it and said he wanted a picture with my two junior enlisted compatriots and I was to ensure they got a copy of the photo. Naturally, I did just that.
- ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY, Va. — Close to 500 Airmen gathered to pay tribute to the first Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force, Paul Airey, who was laid to rest here May 28. Seven former Chief Master Sergeants of the Air Force joined the current CMSAF, Chief Master Sgt. Rodney McKinley, at the funeral service and grave site service. Chief Airey’s marker is located in Section 34 of the cemetery. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Staff Sgt. J.G. Buzanowski)