Air Force mourns the loss of 6th Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force

  • Published
  • By Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs

The 6th Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force, James M. McCoy, passed away July 13, 2022, at the age of 91. 

In his 30-year career, McCoy was the first senior enlisted advisor of Strategic Air Command, served as chairman of two worldwide senior enlisted adviser conferences for the Air Force Association and was selected as one of the 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year in 1974. 

"When we talk about standing on the shoulders of giants, we are talking about Airmen like CMSAF McCoy," said Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force JoAnne S. Bass. "His passion for taking care of our Airmen was only exceeded by his humility. He was an icon of our great Air Force - and a hero to us all." 

As the 6th Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force, McCoy set out to improve the enlisted retention rate that had dropped to as low as 25 percent in the late 1970s. He also created the Stripes for Exceptional Performers program and expanded professional military education options. 

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 5th Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force and his friend Robert Gaylor. 

He also worked to introduce maternity uniforms for female Airmen, when prior, they would have to wear civilian clothes after a certain point in pregnancy. 

"Chief McCoy left a legacy that highlights the instrumental role senior enlisted leaders have in our mission, both as executors and advisors," said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. CQ Brown, Jr. "Improving education, equality, and quality of life were hallmarks of his time in service that helped shape the force we have today, and his dedication to Airmen and families continued in his post-retirement work with the Air Force Association and other civic organizations. I am grateful for his contributions to our service and am saddened to learn of his passing."