American Resilience - CMSAF#1 Paul W. Airey

  • Published
  • By Community Support Office
  • 355th Fighter Wing
On his 28th combat mission, TSgt Paul Airey's airplane was shot down over Austria. After parachuting, he was immediately surrounded by enemy farmers and taken as a POW. He was initially imprisoned at Stalag 4 but was later force marched hundreds of miles to be imprisoned at Stalag 257, near Berlin.

When Airey was released in May 1945, he weighed only 100 pounds. He later married and had three children.

He served in the Korean conflict, earned the Legion of Merit medal and served as a first sergeant for 12 years. Then, after a rigorous process that narrowed a list of 21 outstanding candidates to just 3, he was selected as the Air Force's first ever Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force in 1967.

After retiring from active duty Aug. 1, 1970, Airey served the Air Force another 40 years in a variety of civilian roles: Air Force Association Chapter president, Air Force Academy president, Air Force Memorial Foundation member and Air University Foundation member.