Enlisted Milestones in history
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  30 Jun 1898

Sgt Ivy Baldwin is the first American pilot shot down in war.

  1899

William (Billy) Mitchell, Medal of Honor and famous prophet of American air power enlists in the Wisconsin Volunteers as a private.

  17 Dec 1903

Controlled power flight of Wilbur and Orville Wright occurred at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina

  1 Aug 1907

Corporal Edward Ward becomes the first enlisted man in the Aeronautical Division of the Army Signal Corps; later to evolve in today's USAF.

  30 May 1908

The 1st Aero Co., Signal Corps, New your National Guard, is organized at the Park Avenue Armory in New York City to learn ballooning.

  1909

Wilbur and Orville Wright sold their first plane to the U.S. War Department

  1 Feb 1910

Seven enlisted men (including Sgt Vernon Burge) are transferred along with Lt. Foulois to Fort Sam Houston for the first official aircraft program.

  1 Jun 1912

Pvt Beckwith Havens receives his F.A.I. Pilot License and later becomes the first National Guard aviator in August of 1912.

  14 Jun 1912

Sgt Vernon L. Burge issued F.A.I. Aviation Certificate for flight.

  14 Aug 1912

Sgt Vernon L. Burge is certified as the Army's first enlisted pilot.

  28 Sep 1912

Aviation mechanic Corporal Frank Scott becomes the first enlisted aviation fatality; Scott AFB named in his honor.

  17 May 1913

Corporal W. A. Lamkey becomes the second enlisted pilot.

  1914

Raoul Lufberry enlists in the Foreign Legion; joins Lafayette Escadrille on 24 May 1916.

  18 Jul 1914

The Aviation Section of the Army Signal Corps authorizes training of enlisted pilots.

  29 Apr 1914

Sgt William Ocker receives his pilot license. Ocker is the first pilot to take aloft an airborne radio and is also known as the father of blind (instrument) flight.

  Jun 1916

Muir Fairchild enlists in the Washington National Guard; becomes first Commandant of Air University in 1946.

  Jun 1916

Nathan F. Twining, Chairman of JCS enlists with Company H of the Third Oregon Infantry (National Guard), Later crossed into the Air Force and became Chairman of the JCS in 1957.

  13 Jul 1916

The First and Second Aero Companies of the New York National Guard became the first Guard aviation units ever mobilized for Federal Service.

  27 Aug 1916

Private Frederick Libby (Royal Flying Corps) becomes the first American to down 5 enemy aircraft in WWI.

  5 Nov 1916

American-born Eugene Bullard, first African American military aviator, enlists in the French Flying Corps.

  6 Apr 1917

U.S. Officially enters World War 1.  The Aviation Section had 65 officers and 1,087 enlisted men divided into seven squadrons.

  May 1917

William C. Maxwell, Maxwell AFB is named in his honor, enlists in the Army at Fort McPherson, GA.

  7 May 1917

Corporal Eugene Bullard (Lafayette Escadrille) becomes the world's first African American pilot/fighter pilot.

  25 May 1917

Edward V. (Eddie) Rickenbacher, Medal of Honor and U.S. leading Ace of WWI enlists in the Aviation Section.

  Jun 1917

Nathan F. Twining, only Air Force general to serve as Chairman of JCS enlists.

  26 Jun 1917

Sgt Vernon L. Burge, Our nations first Airman trained as an aviator, was commissioned in the regular Army and soon reached the rank of Captain.

  30 Jun 1917

Ruth Law becomes the first enlisted Army aviatrix.

  6 Aug 1917

Walter Beech enlists and begins his training as an enlisted pilot at Rich Field; founder of Beech Aircraft.

  15 Aug 1917

Maj H.H. Arnold's insignia design for military, junior, and enlisted aviators is approved and put into regulations.

  25 Sep 1917

Frank Luke, Medal of Honor and U.S. second leading Ace of WWI enlists in the Signal Corps.

  Oct 1917

James H. (Jimmy) Doolittle, pioneer aviator, test pilot, leader of 1942 aerial attack on Japan, enlists in the Signal Corps.

  1918

Stuart Symington, the first Secretary of the Air Force, enlists in the Army as a private.

  20 May 1918

President Woodrow Wilson orders Army aviation transferred from Signal Corps control to agencies under the Secretary of War; new organization in named the “Air Service.”

  3 Jun 1918

Corporal John G. Oechsner shares his invention, "the variable pitch propeller" with the War Department; the War Department rejects it.

  19 May 1919

MSgt Ralph Bottriell (inventor of the D-ring) makes the first military manually operated free-fall back type parachute deployment. This parachute, which he developed himself, was the first that could be opened after the jumper had cleared the plane and was the direct forerunner of the parachutes used in the Army Air Corps and in the Air Force today.

  1919

Sgt First Class Fred Graveline awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his aerial skill as an observer/gunner in WWI.

  4 Jun 1921

The congressional Reorganization Act establishes the basic enlisted grade structure (Private to Master Sergeant) used by the Army and the Air Force in altered forms, today.

  5 Sept 1923

Sgt Ulysses “Sam” Nero dropped a bomb down the smoke stack of the New Jersey during a bombing test of a target ship.  Sgt Nero’s accuracy helped Brigadier General William “Billy” Mitchell further prove Air Power viability against Naval warships.

  14 Dec 1923

Sgts A.B. Jewell and K.T. Widekamp complete the first cross country bomber flight.

  17 Mar 1924

Sgts Alva L. Harvey, Henry Ogden, and Jack Harding take off in Douglas Cruisers on what is to become the "first around the world " flight.

  Sep 1924

Elwood R. Quesada, member of the famed "Question Mark" endurance crew of 1929 enlists.

  2 Jul 1926

Congress enacts H.R. 10827 stating enlisted pilots would comprise 20% of tactical units in peace time.

  2 Jul 1926

Air Corps Act is signed; sets five-year expansion plan in motion and changes name of Air Service to Air Corps.

  20 - 21 May 1927

Charles A. Lindbergh made his pioneer solo flight from New York to Paris.

  12 Dec 1927

Former enlisted, MGen James Fechet assumes position of Chief of Air Service.

  20 Jan 1928

MSgt Henry A. Chapman of the 19th Airship Company became the first recipient of the Cheney Award for bravery displayed in attempting to save his shipmates from the Roma, an Airship that became engulfed in flames, our nations worst air disaster up that time.  The award was presented by President Calvin Coolidge.

  26 Apr 1928

MSgt Harry A. Chapman becomes the first recipient of the Cheney Award.

  1-7 Jan 1929

Sgt Roy Hooe participates as a crew member in the world record endurance flight of the "Question Mark."

  19 Dec 1931

Former Sgt Benjamin D. Foulois assumes command of the Air Corps.

  9 Feb 1934

Army Air Corps ordered to fly mail.  Domestic airmail contracts cancelled.

  1 March 1935

Activation of the General Headquarters Air Force at Langley Field.

  Feb 1940

Francis "Gabby" Gabreski, top living USAF Ace (37 1/2 kills), enlists.

  1933 - 1941

MSgt Harley Fogleman founded and served as the first commander of what was later to become Edwards AFB.

  1935 - 1941

MSgt Ralph Gray develops the high altitude fuel pressure regulator.

  Mar 1941

Former enlisted pilot Capt Noel Parrish is assigned to Maxwell AFB, assistant Director of training of the Eastern Flying Training.

  29 May 1941

Dick Bong, U.S. Ace of all wars (40 kills) enlists in the Air Corps.

  3 Jun 1941

Public Law 99 is passed by Congress allowing enlisted men to train as aviation cadets.

  20 Jun 1941

The Air Corps and General Headquarters, Air Force are combined to form the Army Air Forces under the command of General "Hap" Arnold..

  7 Jul 1941

Pvt Joe Alexander enlists in Army Air Corps at age 14.

  12 Jul 1941

Thomas B. McGuire, Medal of Honor and second leading Ace of WWII enlists at MacDill Field.

  Summer 1941

Former enlisted pilot Capt Noel Parrish is assigned to Maxwell AFB to open the Tuskegee Flying School.

  12 Sep 1941

Charles E. (Chuck) Yeager, the first person to fly faster than the speed of sound and a double ACE in WWII, enlists in the Air Corps.

  Nov 1941

The first African Americans entered the flying training establishment at Tuskegee, Alabama

  7 Dec 1941

Japanese attack Pearl Harbor and pulls the United States into World War II.

  18 Apr 1942

Twenty eight enlisted B-25 bombardiers, engineers, and gunners led by Lt Col James D. Doolittle launch a surprise attack on five Japanese cities.

  May 1942

James JaBara, America's first jet ACE and second leading ACE in the Korean War, enlists in Air Corps at Fort Riley KS.

  11 May 1942

Army Air Forces Pvt. Joe Alexander is capture by Japanese in the Philippines; becomes the youngest American prisoner of war in World War II at age 15.

  7 Mar 1942

Ninety three enlisted pilots graduate as the first Sergeant Pilots - Class 42-C. from Kelly and Ellington Fields.

  8 Jul 1942

Public Law 658 or Flight Officer Act ended the legacy of enlisted pilots which began in 1912; most all Sgt Pilots promoted to Flight Officer.

  1 Dec 1942

Thirty Staff Sgt pilots began flying missions over the "Hump."

  1 May 1943

SSgt Maynard Smith fights off enemy aircraft and raging fires on his B-17; becomes the Army Air Forces’ first enlisted Medal of Honor recipient.

  11 Jun 1943

Gunner Cliff Erikson takes control and lands "Dangerous Dan" a crippled B-17F.

  5 Jul 1943

B-17 gunner, SSgt B.F. Warner, shoots down seven enemy aircraft.

  Aug 1943

SSgt Benjamin F. Warmer is awarded the title of "ACE" by Gen Spaatz; making him the only enlisted ACE of WWII.

  2 Oct 1943

TSgt A.P. Benko shoots down seven enemy aircraft, CBI theater.

  20 Dec 1943

TSgt Forrest Vosler suffering from numerous wounds defends his B-17 from Nazi fighters and assists wounded crew members after ditching.  TSgt Forrest Vosler was presented the Medal of Honor on 30 August 1944 by President Roosevelt.

  20 Feb 1944

SSgt Archibald Mathies dies while attempting to land his crew’s crippled B-17 "Ten Horsepower." 

  23 Jul 1944

SSgt Archie Mathies is posthumously presented the Medal of Honor.

  12 Apr 1945

SSgt Henry Erwin earns the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions saving a B-29 and its crew from a malfunctioned phosphorus bomb. 

  19 Apr 1945

SSgt Henry Erwin was presented the Medal of Honor by General Lemay.

  8 May 1945

V-E Day; Germany surrenders.

  6 Aug 1945

The 509th Composite Group B-29 “Enola Gay” drops the first atomic bomb used in war on Hiroshima, Japan.

  9 Aug 1945

B-29 "Bockscar" drops second atomic bomb on Nagasaki.

  18 Aug 1945

Enlisted gunners aboard a B-32 shoot down last Japanese "Zero."

  2 Sep 1945

V-J Day; Japan surrenders.

  17 Aug 1946

MSgt Lawrence Lambert is the first human to eject from an aircraft and test an ejection seat; receives the Cheney Award.

  Feb 1946

General Carl A. Spaatz replaces General Arnold as Commanding General of the Army Air Forces.

  Mar 1946

Decision was made that the Army Air force's combat commands would consist of a Strategic Air Command (SAC), a Tactical Air Command (TAC) and an Air Defense Command (ADC), which were carried over into the new Air Force and were later confirmed by law.

  18 Sept 1947

The National Security act was signed and the Air Force became an independent service with a status coequal with the Army and Navy.

  26 Sept 1947

General Carl A. Spaatz became the first Chief of Staff of the Air Force.

  8 Jul 1948

Women of the Air Corps (WAC) SSgt Esther Blake becomes the first female in the new USAF.

  26 Jun 1948

The first deliveries of "Operation Vittles" were made to Berlin.

  26 Jul 1948

President Harry Truman issues Executive Order 9981 that orders the Armed Forces desegregated.

  26 Jun 1948 - 30 Sep 1949

Operation Vittles, the Berlin Airlift takes place, the first major challenge of the new Air Force.

  25 Jun 1950

The Korean War begins.

  9 Nov 1950

Sgt Harry J. Lavene becomes the first enlisted aerial gunner MIG killer.

  12 Apr 1951

Sgt Billie Beach shot down two MIGs during an assault on Yalu River bridges in Korea, a feat unmatched by any other gunner.

  1 Apr 1952

USAF formally converts from Army enlisted ranks of Sergeant (Sgt), Corporal (CPL), Private First Class (PFC), and Private (Pvt) to Airman First Class (A1C), Airman Second Class (A2C), Airman Third Class (A3C), and Airman Basic (AB).

  15 Nov 1952

The first permanent NCO Academy class opens at West Drayton, England under Strategic Air Command.

  July 1953

Korean War ended in a cease-fire agreement.

  3 May 1954

MSgt John H. Fedderson is selected as Commandant of the new NCO Academy at McChord.

  May 1957

The Air Force’s last enlisted pilot, MSgt George Holmes, retires.

  15 Jan 1957

A1C Eugene Preiss is the first person to fly around the world backwards.

  9 Feb 1958

A1C Donald G. Farrell "lifts off" on the first simulated trip to the moon.

  1 Sep 1958

The first airmen are promoted to the E-8 "super-grade."

  1 Dec 1959

The first airmen assume the top enlisted rank - Chief Master Sergeant.

  1 Jun 1960

Grace A. Peterson becomes the first female Chief Master Sergeant (CMSgt).

  6 Jul 1960

Congress approves several Air Force specific awards, including the Air Force Cross, Air Force Distinguished Service Medal, and Airman’s Medal.

  6 Jun 1961

Sgt James Howell performed the first live supersonic seat ejection.

  20 Sep 1965

A1C William A. Robinson and A3C Arthur Black are captured on a rescue mission in Vietnam; become the first enlisted Air Force Cross recipients.

  11 Apr 1966

A1C William H. Pitsenbarger earns the Air Force Cross saving the lives of nine Army Soldiers on Cam My, Republic of Vietnam.  A1C Pitsenbarger lost his live during the night of this action.  His parents received the Air Force Cross for their son’s actions from Air Force Chief of Staff General John P. McConnell on 22 September 1966.

  1967

CMSgt George R. Edenfield designed the first egress seat trainer; better known as the Edenfield trainer.

  3 Apr 1967

CMSgt Paul Airey is appointed as the first CMSAF. He served in that position from 3 April 1967 until 31 July 1969.

  9 Nov 1967

SSgt Eugene Clay, Sgt Larry W. Maysey attempt night extraction of ground reconnaissance team.  Posthumously awarded Air Force Cross.

  5 Mar 1968

Sgt. Russell Hunt receives Air Force Cross for heroism on a rescue mission.

  3 Oct 1968

Sgt Thomas A. Newman receives Air Force Cross for gallantry in action.

  10 Feb 1969

Sgt. Nacey Kent, Jr. received Air Force Cross for heroism in Vietnam.

  24 Feb 1969

A1C John L. Levitow saves the crew of Spooky 71. He became the lowest ranking Airman to receive the Medal of Honor. 

  7 Mar 1969

A1C Charles D. King receives Air Force Cross for heroic rescue mission. 

  9 Apr 1969

A1C Joel E. Talley awarded Air force Cross for heroic rescue. 

  12 Jun 1969

TSgt V.R. Adams awarded Air Force Cross for extraordinary heroism 

  3 Dec 1969

Sgt M.E. Fish receives Air Force Cross for rescue of four Army helicopter crewmen. 

  26 Mar 1970

TSgt Donald G. Smith receives Air Force Cross for heroic rescue. 

  14 May 1970

A1C Levitow awarded the Medal of Honor by President Nixon.

  Jun 1970

Sgt T.R. Hamlin receives Air Force Cross.

  12 Jun 1970

The Air Force establishes the first Senior Airman Advisors positions within each command, followed by the terms Senior Enlisted Advisors and currently Command Chief Master Sergeant.

  12 Aug 1970

The “Total Force” concept, linking the Air Force, Air National Guard, and Air Force Reserve into one unit, is announced.

  18 Jan 1971

TSgt Leroy M. Wright receives Air Force Cross for rescue attempt at Son Tay POW camp.

  1 Jul 1971

Enlisted medical technicians begin training as physician assistants at Sheppard AFB.

  31 Aug 1972

SSgt Charles L. Shaub receives Air Force Cross for extraordinary heroism.

  18 Dec 1972

SSgt Samuel Turner scores the first of only two aerial kills ever from a B-52, during Operation Linebacker II in Vietnam and becomes first enlisted MIG killer in SE Asia.

  24 Dec 1972

A1C Albert Moore scores the second and last confirmed kill by a B-52 tail gunner, during Operation Linebacker II in Vietnam.

  9 Jan 1973

Class 73-A begins. Among the 120 graduates of that first SNCOA class were CMSgt Tom Barnes, CMSgt James McCoy, and CMSgt Sam Parish.  Each of these CMSgt’s later became Chief Master Sergeants of the Air Force (CMSAF).

  27 Jun 1973

Sgt Charles D. McGrath awarded Air Force Cross for heroic rescue mission.

  1 Nov 1973

Enlisted personnel assume duties as Weapons Controllers converting 108 former officer positions to enlisted status.

  12 May 1975

SSgt Jon D. Harston earns the Air Force Cross for his valor during a rescue mission aboard the U.S. merchant ship S.S. Mayaguez off the Cambodian coast.

  15 May 1975

TSgt Wayne Fisk is the last American combatant to engage enemy forces in Southeast Asia.

  14 Jul 1975

SSgt J.D. Harston receives Air force Cross for heroic actions in recovery of SSgt Mayaguez.

  12 Jul 1976

Two enlisted men undergo training as flight system operators at Castle AFB.

  1 Sep 1979

CMSgt Dorothy Holmes is the first enlisted female to retire with 30 years TAFMS.

  7 Jan 1980

MSgt Wayne Fisk is the first AF enlisted selected as one of the US Jaycees Ten Outstanding Young Men of America.

  Sept 1982

Air Force Space Command was established to ensure sound development of space strategies and operational concepts.

  May 1983

CMSgt Bobby Renfroe becomes the first enlisted commandant of the USAF Senior NCO Academy.

  1 May 1986

Airman magazine cartoonist John H. "Jake" Schuffert and former MSgt retires culminating 44 years of federal and military service.

  1 Jul 1986

Former A3C Larry D. Welch assumes the position of Chief of Staff, Air Force.

  20 Dec 1989

The F-117A stealth fighter was first used in Operation Just Cause, when US forces attacked the defeated Panamanian defense forces.

  11 Jul 1990

CMSgt Thomas J. Williams is the first enlisted recipient of the NAACP Roy Wilkins Meritorious Award.

  6 Aug 1990

Operation Desert Shield, the defensive deployment of US military forces to protect the gulf region from further Iraqi encroachment, began.

  1991

CMSgt Lewis Fountain sets a record of flying hours in a C-141 - 15,000.

  17 Jan 1991

Operation Desert Storm begins with a massive U.S. led air attack over Iraq.

  28 Feb 1991

The Gulf War ends at 0800 hours with the coalition-declared cease fire.

  27 Sep 1991

President Bush orders termination of SAC’s alert, initiated in October 1957.  The next day the alert forces cease operations, heralding the successful conclusion of the Cold War.

  30 Sep 1991

Four enlisted gunners fly the last B-52 "aircrew gunner" mission at Minot AFB ending 75 years of enlisted aircraft gunners.

  3 Oct 1993

TSgt Timothy Wilkinson, MSgt Scott Fales and SSgt Jeffrey Bray, members Task Force Ranger in Mogadishu, Somalia, respond to a firefight. Wilkinson earns the Air Force Cross for extraordinary heroism--the first since Vietnam--; Fales and Bray, Silver Stars for gallantry.

  25 Jun 1996

Khobar Towers Dhahran, Saudia Arabia, nineteen Air Force personnel killed in the terrorist bombing of an American housing complex.