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Air University dedicates center responsible for enlisted education

  • Published
  • By Ashley M. Wright
  • Air University Public Affairs
Air University officials recently dedicated the Thomas N. Barnes Center for Enlisted Education to the fourth chief master sergeant of the Air Force at a ceremony here. 

The Barnes Center acts as an umbrella covering the Air Force Senior Noncommissioned Officer Academy, all NCO academies within the continental United States, Airman Leadership School curriculum, the Air Force First Sergeant Academy and the Community College of the Air Force -- the largest community college in the world. 

"It is more than fitting that we honor this new enlisted center for education by naming it after a former chief master sergeant of the Air Force who put so much energy into improving education," said Col. Wade Johnson, commander of the Barnes Center.

"What a great day for our Air Force," said Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Rodney J. McKinley. "Chief Barnes was the chief master sergeant of the Air Force during very turbulent times in our country and in our Air Force. Our nation faced many challenges in the middle '70s. We could not have had a better leader, a better chief master sergeant of the Air Force ... to get us through those times."

While dealing with the conflict in Vietnam and race and gender relations within the Air Force, Chief Barnes tackled a major initiative to expand the spectrum of profession military education for enlisted personnel.

"Our Airmen are doing incredible things out there every day," Chief McKinley said. "This did not happen by accident. It happened because we had leaders like Chief Barnes who recognized professional military education was important to the Air Force. I am honored and pleased that we are recognizing what this great leader has done, not only for the enlisted force, but for the Air Force and our country."

Chief Barnes served as chief master sergeant of the Air Force beginning in October 1973 and retired in July 1977. The chief passed away in 2003.

Maj. Gen. Stephen J. Miller, Air University vice commander; Colonel Johnson; and Chief McKinley presented Chief Barnes' family members with a plaque commemorating the center.

Chief Barnes' two daughters attended the ceremony and said the opportunity allowed them to learn more about their father.

"We are honored to still be considered a part of the Air Force family," said Thyra Barnes. "It is amazing to us. They speak as though he was their father."

The designation of the Barnes Center was the final act in the Air University reorganization.

"We have been going through a major transformation here at Air University," General Miller said. "It is more than just simply about reorganization. It is more than just simply saying the words, 'the intellectual and leadership center of the Air Force'... We are taking enlisted PME to the next level."