Sixth Air Force Chief Master Sgt. laid to rest in Omaha ceremony

Kathleen McCoy, the wife of the sixth Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force, James M. McCoy, receives a folded American flag by Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force JoAnne S. Bass during McCoy’s internment ceremony held at the Omaha National Cemetery on July 29, 2022. McCoy was active in many business and civic organizations within the Omaha, Nebraska area and on the national level. Photo credit Charles J. Haymond/U.S. Air Force photo

The sixth Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force was laid to rest during an interment ceremony at the Omaha National Cemetery on July 29.

James M. McCoy, who served as the first senior enlisted advisor of Strategic Air Command and was selected as one of the 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year in 1974, died July 13, at the age of 91, according to the Air Force.

Podcast Episode
Eye on Veterans
Wanna get away? Read "March on! " A Veteran's Travel Guide
Listen Now
Now Playing
Now Playing

In attendance were multiple dignitaries including Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force JoAnne S. Bass and five former CMSAFs.

“He dedicated his life to service,” Bass said. “Service to his nation, service to our Air Force, and most importantly, service to our Airmen and their families.”

The Air Force Honor Guard performed the Military honors were performed by the Air Force Honor Guard. A flyover was provided by two B-52H Stratofortress aircraft from Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana.

“He wore the uniform for over 30 years, but his impact extends to our airmen still serving today,” Bass said. “Our airmen and our Air Force are no doubt better off because of him.”

As the sixth CMSAF, McCoy set out to improve the enlisted retention rate that had dropped to as low as 25% in the late 1970s. He also created the Stripes for Exceptional Performers program and expanded professional military education options. McCoy also worked to introduce maternity uniforms for female airmen.

One of the unique aspects of McCoy's career lay in his time at Noncommissioned Officer Leadership School, now Airman Leadership School, where he instructed the fifth CMSAF, and his friend, Robert Gaylor.

“I am filled with mixed emotions,” Gaylor said. “I am saddened by the loss I feel of my very dear friend and at the same time, I am uplifted having the many years I’ve spent serving with him. We were like brothers.”

McCoy died 17 days short of his birthday. He is survived by his wife, Kathy McCoy, and seven of his eight children: Debbie Paxton, Jim McCoy, Teresa Cloughesy, Barb Branco, Steve McCoy, Matt McCoy, and Tom McCoy. One son, Mike McCoy, preceded him in death.

More photos from the ceremony can be viewed here.

Reach Julia LeDoux at