Chiefs celebrate golden anniversary

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Mark Hartnett
  • 96th Airlift Squadron
Sometimes a TDY opportunity/ destination comes along that you just can't pass up. My recent good deal trip to Wright Patterson Air Force base, Ohio happened to be one of these occasions. Dayton Ohio in December .... good deal you say?

Chief Master Sgt. Lee Traxler-Siehndel from 934 SVS, my wife Helen and I had the privilege to attend the Golden Anniversary of the Chief Master Sgt stripe on Dec 1. This semi-formal event was held at the National Museum of the United States Air Force.

Before the evening dinner was held, we were able to tour the museum. Let me just say that if you ever are given the opportunity to visit WPAFB, don't pass it up. The museum is comprised of three giant hangars that cover early military aviation (Wright Brothers) right up to the present (F-22 hanging from the ceiling). The museum is self-guided and also offers an omni- theater, memorial garden and outside exhibits of some numerous larger aircraft. Inside though, this place is big! A B-52 Stratofortress hangs from the ceiling of one hangar.

The evening event was six years in the making by Chief Master Sgt. (Ret) Andy Anderson and the WPAFB Chief's Group. In 1957 Congress passed a bill that created two new enlisted ranks, E-8 and E-9. On Dec. 1, 1958, the first of this new group of enlisted rank holders sewed on senior master sergeant. On Dec. 1, 1959, 1700 of these E-8's were selected for Chief Master Sergeant. However, due to budgetary constraints (sound familiar?), only 625 Chiefs were minted. The remaining selectees sewed on Chief on June 1, 1960.

Skipping ahead fifty years, a dinner was held in their honor. In fact, we were fortunate to have at the dinner, one Chief Ralph A Schell. Chief Schell (age 92) was one of the original 625. He mentioned his promotion was one of little fanfare. A Captain in his unit presented the stripes, said "sew them on and get back to work".

The evening function in the museum amongst the exhibits included a wonderful catered meal, live music provided by the AF Band of Flight and several interesting and entertaining speakers. Most notable was CMSAF #5, Chief Robert Gaylor. Chief Gaylor retired in July 1979 and continues to travel and speak to Airman. This 79 year old Chief had the audience hanging on every word as he delivered his "Four T" talk. It was obvious the man was a big fan of 1940's-1960's stand- up comedy. One can see why this very dynamic and charismatic leader held the top enlisted position. Incidentally, the "Four T's" that the Chief drove home were: Training, Technology, Tribe (family) and Trust.
Again, I would encourage all Airman, if given the chance, take a trip to WPAFB and hopefully you will have the time to tour the National Museum of the USAF.