PRESERVING A MILITARY LEGACY FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS
The following Reflection represents TSgt Timothy Montjoy’s legacy of their military service from 1996 to 2016. If you are a Veteran, consider preserving a record of your own military service, including your memories and photographs, on Togetherweserved.com (TWS), the leading archive of living military history. The Service Reflections is an easy-to-complete self-interview, located on your TWS Military Service Page, which enables you to remember key people and events from your military service and the impact they made on your life.
Of all your duty stations you were assigned to from your Military Service, which one(s) do you have fondest memories of and why?
While I am truly mesmerized by history, this historic and absolute 1-of-a-kind piece is easily my most prized possession from my phenomenal 20-year (and 11 days) Air Force career. In July 1944, on his 28th combat mission, a bombing run over Vienna, Austria, Paul W. Airey was forced to bail out of his flak-damaged aircraft over Hungary. He was captured by the German military and was taken to Stalag Luft IV, a prisoner of war (POW) camp near the Baltic Sea for Allied airmen. In February 1945, Airey and 6,000 fellow POWs were forced to march 400 miles to another camp near Berlin as the Soviet Red Army got closer. He was liberated in May 1945 by British forces.
Airey reenlisted in the Air Force after completing a recuperation leave. He went to Naha Air Base, Okinawa, where he was responsible for radio repair. During the Korean War, he was awarded the Legion of Merit, unusual for an enlisted person, for saving more than a million dollars in electronic equipment that would have deteriorated without the corrosion control assembly line he developed.
On April 3, 1967, he was appointed the first Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force, the service’s ultimate noncommissioned officer position, having been selected from among 21 major command nominees.
Following his tenure as the Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force, Airey returned to Tyndall Air Force Base in Panama City, Florida. While there, Chief Airey served as the First Sergeant of a combat crew training squadron before retiring on August 1, 1970, where he continued to impact thousands of our nation’s Airmen.
Fast forward to 2008, where I was the Protocol Noncommissioned Officer for the Air Force Senior Noncommissioned Officer Academy in Montgomery, AL. While stationed there, I had the honor of working for several phenomenal leaders within our Air Force and also witnessed several very impactful speakers. One of those speakers was the Commandant of the Paul W. Airey Noncommissioned Officer Academy in Panama City, Florida, Chief Master Sergeant Malcolm McVicar.
– After one of his speaking engagements, I overheard Chief McVicar mention to another instructor that his Academy was planning on replacing the student desks that had been in place since the Academy relocated to Panama City back in the late 1970s. While I was probably out of place, I took a “leap of faith” and asked Chief McVicar if there would be any way that I might be able to drive to Panama City and pick up one of those old desks.
To my pleasant surprise,
Chief McVicar said that he would inquire about old furniture and ensure that those types of items could be discarded. As Chief McVicar was departing, I mentioned that it would be a really cool touch to have Chief Airey’s autograph on one of those old desks.
I honestly did not think that things would work out as I had hoped, and I really didn’t think much more about it.
A few weeks passed, and a coworker of mine came to my office telling me that I had a visitor out back. I didn’t make much of it since we had packages and other supplies delivered periodically. I headed down to the back parking lot, and there stands a Technical Sergeant with a huge smile on his face. I was like, very interesting – “Sergeant Montjoy,” he says; I acknowledged, and he said, “I have your desk from the Airey NCO Academy” I about fainted. What he did not initially mention was that Chief McVicar had taken the desktop with him during one of his weekly breakfast meetings with Chief Airey and asked our first Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force to autograph it for me.
* little known fact: Chief Airey’s son, Dale, also became a Chief Master Sergeant for our Air Force and went on to become a Command Chief prior to his retirement.
While I am truly mesmerized by history, this historic and absolute 1-of-a-kind piece is easily my most prized possession from my phenomenal 20-year (and 11 days) Air Force career.
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What an exceptionally unique experience! That’s a treasure.