Fifty Years of Leadership, Tradition, and Pride

Chief Master Sergeant, CMSgt Stripes (Metallic).  Insignia provided by ITC(SW) MIke Purcell.

December 1 marks the 50th anniversary for the most senior enlisted rank in the Air Force; Chief Master Sgt. Congress developed the Career Compensation Act that created new pay grades within the enlisted force structure; E-8 or senior master sergeant and E-9, chief master sergeant. There were approximately 58,000 master sergeants in the first group eligible for the new E-8 pay grade and on Sept. 1, 1958, 3,400 Airmen were selected for promotion to E-8; a second group were selected and advanced on March 1, 1960.

LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- Chief master sergeant, the most respected and prestigious enlisted rank in our Air Force, marks its 50 year anniversary Dec. 1.

Senior master sergeant and chief master sergeant history is tied to the Career Compensation Act of 1958. With master sergeant being the highest enlisted grade until Congress acted in 1958, the services faced grade suppression or promotion stagnation. To prevent the stunting of promotions the new act authorized all services to promote 2 percent of the enlisted force to E-8 and 1 percent to E-9.

The Air Force was phasing out the Warrant Officer Program and assigned most of the duties formerly performed by warrant officers to senior master sergeants and chiefs -- but that was a Service decision; it was not the intent of the Career Compensation Act.

The new act created new pay grades within the enlisted force structure; E-8 or senior master sergeant and E-9, chief master sergeant. There were approximately 58,000 master sergeants in the first group eligible for the new E-8 pay grade and on Sept. 1, 1958, 3,400 Airmen were selected for promotion to E-8; a second group were selected and advanced on March 1, 1960.

The Air Force promoted the first chief master sergeants Dec. 1, 1959. Command boards selected approximately 1,700 for advancement from those promoted to E-8 in September 1958 and March 1959, however, only about 620 were promoted to chief. The promotion of the remainder was withheld until June 1, 1960 for budgetary reasons. There were no line numbers for the first group of chiefs promoted -- all those selected sewed on chief chevrons the same day.

The first 620 chiefs promoted in 1959 are often referred to as Charter Chiefs. The original chief master sergeant chevron, six rockers down and two chevrons up, was used from Dec. 1, 1959 until the Oct. 1, 1994 mandatory wear date for the current chief chevron.

There will be several celebrations marking the 50th anniversary of the chief master sergeant rank including one at Barksdale AFB, La. and at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio. For more information, contact Chief Master Sgt. (Retired) Jim Flaschenreim at FLASCHME@AOL.COM for Barksdale events or Chief Master Sgt. (Retired) Jim Anderson at ANDERSJA@CLEARWIRE.NET for Wright-Patterson events.