By Shane S. Karp | Air Force Sergeants Association
Retired Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James C. Binnicker, the ninth CMSAF, died March 21st at the age of 76. The well-loved and admired chief was an active member and supporter of AFSA, and his regular attendance at the annual AFSA Professional Airmen’s Conference was a highlight of the event each year.
Chief Binnicker served as the Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force from July 1, 1986 through July 31, 1990. His work to implement the Enlisted Performance Report was a crucial element of his time as CMSAF. The EPR essentially reinvented the way Airmen were evaluated.
That is not all Chief Binnicker accomplished during his four-year stint as the highest enlisted Air Force member. Binnicker also was the first to make it possible for master sergeants to be admitted into the Senior Noncommissioned Officer Academy, and continued to be a champion for all Airmen by encouraging the growth and advancement of all ranks.
In 1956, a young Jim Binnicker was named Cadet of the Year in the Civil Air Patrol at the age of 18, an honor which earned him a scholarship to attend flight school.
Shortly thereafter, his dreams of becoming a pilot were ended, when in 1957 doctors detected a high-frequency hearing loss in his right ear, a flaw which disqualified him from partaking in the Air Force’s aviation cadet program.
“I was disappointed and didn’t want to go back home,” the Chief said, “so I told the recruiter that I wanted to join the Air Force.”
He enlisted in August of 1957 in the life support career field, an opportunity which put him on the flight line, working on the B-52 Stratofortress and the KC-135 Stratotanker.
Among his many awards and decorations, Binnicker earned the Air Force Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star Medal – as well as the Vietnam Service Medal, the Vietnam Gallantry Cross Unit Award and the Vietnam Campaign Medal for his time spent in theater during the Vietnam War.
During his time as CMSAF, Chief Binnicker served as an advisor to retired Gen. Larry D. Welch, 12th chief of staff of the U.S. Air Force.
“What I remember Chief Binnicker for is that I knew if there was a significant issue involving the enlisted force, …Chief Binnicker would be in my office to tell me about it,” said the General in “Generations of Chevrons.” “He was a marvelous spokesman for the needs of the enlisted force, and a marvelous spokesman for the NCO corps.”
After his career in the Air Force, the Chief continued serving Airmen and their families. In 1992, he joined the Board of Directors for the Air Force Enlisted Village. In 2000, he became the president and CEO.
The Air Force Enlisted Village is a non-profit charity which was founded in 1967 as housing for Air Force widows and widowers. Since then, the village has evolved into a more inclusive housing option for other dependents of the Air Force family.
"It's not just a retirement home for widows," said Chief Binnicker during a speaking engagement in 2012. "It is a community. It's an extension of the Air Force family, and we are very proud to provide that."
The Chief was recognized by so many as a leader, mentor, friend, and one who dedicated his life to others. During a speech to Congress in recognition of the Chief in 2008, U.S. Congressman Jeff Miller said, “Mr. Binnicker has dedicated his life to helping those in need, we will be eternally grateful for his service … I am proud to honor one of America's true heroes, James C. Binnicker, for his leadership and service to Northwest Florida and throughout the world.”
When previously asked how he would like to be remembered, Chief Binnicker said, “That I did my best. I would hope most people would say the same thing… and that’s all you can do. That’s all the country can ask of you…that you do your best. That’s how I’d like to be remembered.”
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