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Airmen recognize impact of enlisted heritage

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AFRNS) -- More than 650 Airmen celebrated the 60th anniversary of the Air Force and 40th anniversary of the Office of the Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force during the Senior Enlisted Leader Summit Heritage Dinner here July 26.

Hosted by Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Rodney J. McKinley, the dinner featured a classic film highlighting the Air Force's anniversary.

The Air Force was just 20 years old when the Department of Defense issued Release No. 274-67 on April 3, 1967. Forty years later, Airmen are recognizing the impact of the news release announcing the installation of the first chief master sergeant of the Air Force.

The dinner focused on current and former chief master sergeants of the Air Force. Airmen wearing past and present uniforms performed parodies as the master of ceremonies highlighted the legacies of the 14 former chiefs before introducing Chief McKinley.

Eight former chief master sergeants attended, and Airmen could not resist approaching them for autographs and photographs. But none garnered more attention than the first Airman to hold the position.

Throughout the night, Airmen approached Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Paul Wesley Airey. He received numerous standing ovations from the men and women in blue who wanted to thank the chief for his continued service that impacts them even today.

"Most of them (the chiefs) have been engaged with the Air Force all their lives," said Chief Master Sgt. Nancy Taulbee, who serves at the Pentagon as the career field manager for personnelists. "I'm not sure how old Chief Airey is, but he is still probably as relevant today as he was 40 years ago. He still knows what is going on and still can feel the pulse of the Air Force, and that's a cool thing."

Enlisted Airmen enter the Air Force through the Airey Processing Center at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, when they are issued uniforms, said Chief Master Sgt. Malcolm McVicar, director of the Air Force Enlisted Heritage Hall and master of ceremonies. There are dormitories, dining facilities and an NCO Academy at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., that bear his name.

"Chief, we the Air Force recognize your leadership and continued support over the years for all our Airmen -- past, present and future," Chief McVicar said. "We are your Airmen and we are proud of how you helped mold us into the greatest air, space and cyberspace force in the world."

Earlier in the day, Chief Airey spent time on a panel during the Senior Enlisted Leader Summit.

"Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Paul Wesley Airey is someone that each one of us will always look up to as the top enlisted Airman ever, in my opinion," Chief McKinley said. "You think about what he's gone through, from being a POW, to going all through the ranks, being a chief and first sergeant, and then being the first chief master sergeant of the Air Force. And even today, this morning, he's there mentoring chiefs in our Air Force. So he's still a great Airman.

"I can also tell you that I'm very humbled to be among all these great men, these leaders, as they've been my mentors. I've been watching them from afar. I still learn from them every day," Chief McKinley said of the former chief master sergeants of the Air Force. "And it's truly an honor to call each one of them friends. They're truly a great group of people to be around. They are great Americans and great Airmen."

Finally, focusing on Air Force enlisted heritage, Chief McKinley challenged Airmen to embrace it.

"I'd like to see heritage extend to the walls of every squadron, the walls of every dormitory, the walls of every enlisted club, to show our enlisted heritage throughout every base," the chief said. (Courtesy of Air Force Print News)