The Senior Master Chief is the highest level to hold as an enlisted man. Along with responsibility, the job warrants respect from the lower-grade airmen. To obtain the rank, one must wait for the Evaluation Board, which convenes each January at the Air Force Personnel Center and the following requirements must be met to be awarded the rank:
Minimum of 20 months in grade
Must have 11 years military time Air Force
Lewellyn James Hurley,
U.S. Air Force
Must meet the promotion cut-off dates
Must pass the master sergeant test
Those selected to MSGT are promoted during the period of April 1 through March 1 of the following year.
Lewellyn James Hurley - at left in photo - was born March 4, 1951 to Lewellyn and Loretta Hurley. Hurley was the son of a tavern owner, and as a boy he didn't know that the majority of his life would be dedicated to the military and all its veterans.
The Hurley family had their roots in Two Rivers, Wis., where Hurley enjoyed growing up. He started school at the local Saint Luke's. He attended high school at Roncalli High in nearby Manitowoc, Wis. While in high school, Hurley enjoyed playing football along with baseball. As a teenager, Hurley landed a job at a local gas station. His duties as an attendant were to pump gas, wipe windshields, check the oil and, lastly, to check the tires' air pressure. His salary was $1.25 per hour, not a bad salary since gas was 23 cents per gallon. One could fill up his car for $3 and ride around town all night.
With high school winding down, and because Hurley was part of the demographic that would later be considered the "Baby Boomers," the norm was for all men to finish school, join the military, do their duty, come home, get married, buy a home and then raise a family. For Jim Hurley, the rules were the rules, and to follow them he enlisted on Nov. 25, 1969.
He enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in Milwaukee, Wis. The war in Vietnam was in full swing, and 1968 would see the war make a 180-degree turn, with desertions in the North Vietnam's army rising, and the north seeing no major victories coming their way. We were almost ready to throw in the towel. It was on a trip to Paris, France where North Vietnam's leader Ho Chi Minh and his top general, General Giap, were watching world news on TV when they noticed the anti-war protesting being done on college campuses and saw our country divided that they decided to keep the war going.
Seeing Americans divided surely could put the advantage in Ho Chi Minh's favor, so the next day at the peace talks he left the tables claiming that he would give up 10 of his own soldiers for every one of ours.
The Air Force was no easy or safe branch to be in. The Air Force was involved daily with B-52 Arc Light raids and constant daily spraying of Agent Orange, a defilement that if sprayed on a tree or branch would kill it by the next day.
With the papers all signed and the medical team checking the corner box with the big initials "A-1," Hurley was off to Lakeland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. After boot camp, the Air Force determined that they could use Hurley best as a 552-51, a masonry specialist whose duties would include all types of construction that would later mean on-the-job training. Hurley would be involved in runway maintenance, working on Air Force buildings, and at times equipment. In order to be up to date with emergency construction, the Air Force would purposely blow up air strips to see how the repairs could be most efficiently made.
Working his way up the Air Force ladder put Hurley on a "Prime Beef" team. That term meant he was ready to deploy anywhere in the world with a 24-hour notice. The Prime Beef team consisted of 60 men who were skilled in all trades. The Air Force uses them when emergencies arrive, whether the situation is a hurricane, flood or major storm. Within hours this 60-man team can be on an Air Force transport, sent anywhere in the world where a military base is in trouble and needs to be put back to a 100 percent readiness status. At times, the teams are even sent to war zones. With this new responsibility came the rank of E-6 Technical Sergeant for Hurley.
His next duty sent him to Rome, New York at Griffiss AFB. Here came the rank of E-6, and along with the rank came duties of structural technical work. This work involved constructing concrete basements, footings for concrete walls and any other kind of construction that revolved around concrete. The Air Force instituted the tab V structures, used to house the new F-15. They were first used at the Kendall AFB. Next came King Salmon in Alaska. Here buildings were needed to protect the Air Force's new F-18 interceptors. Shelter was needed to keep these fighters out of Alaska's extremely cold winter days and nights. Then came Hurley's promotion to E-7 Master Sergeant.
Master Sgt. Jim Hurley was now headed to Charleston AFB. Here came the title of Superintendent of Carpentry. This new job came with the responsibility of running crews of 200 qualified Air Force personnel who were qualified as skilled electricians, carpenters, plumbers, masons and roofers. The new position brought the rank of E-8 and the title of Senior Master Sergeant. Jim Hurley climbed the Air Force ladder as high as one could. A rank that not only required knowledge, E-8 Senior Master Sergeant also came with respect. For anyone to make it to the rank of E-8 means many years of dedication and sacrifice to his or her country, the Air Force and his or her family.
On June 1, 1993, Hurley completed 23 years, six months and six days of dedicated service to his country. But with retirement came more duty to his country. Hurley's next duty to his country was to oversee and run a municipal water district project, which involved a 200-mile canal and 20 major gate pumps. His duties now are helping all veterans with obtaining the benefits due to them.
Dewittville is now the residence of the Hurley family. The Chautauqua County Veterans Service is where Hurley serves not only his country, but also is his way of helping veterans receive any benefits due to them for their years of dedication and service. Working in Veterans Services and seeing fellow military men and women receive the benefits they earned makes all of Hurley's hard paperwork and time worth it. A job that at times comes with good and at times bad results. At Veterans Services Hurley does his best to help any veteran get what he or she is entitled to. Veterans must realize, though, that in order to receive any benefit they must meet all government regulations and their requests must be submitted correctly. Meeting the required regulations and rules is the responsibility of the veteran, and submitting the request is the responsibility of the Veterans Service Officer, like Jim Hurley.
Hurley now enjoys golf and kayaking and camping. He is a member of the American Legion, and also of the Dunkirk Joint Veterans Council.
Hurley is always there for the veterans, working out of his office now located in the Dunkirk Senior Citizens building.
Writing Jim Hurley's story meant a lot for me. A few years ago I had issues with the Veterans Service Agency. I was on a mission, getting the run-around and was told what I wanted to do could not be done. One day I walked into the Dunkirk Veterans Service Office and met Jim Hurley for the first time. He started out by telling me what I wanted to do was almost impossible, and after listening to my facts Hurley sat and shuffled papers. My goal then was to get a local Dunkirk veteran honored, Michael Gregoreski, who had passed away due to problems incurred from the war in Vietnam. Washington had informed me that if I came up with the proper medical records and military combat information, they may consider my request. Hurley told me he would try to get me what I requested. I walked away from him with the feeling that he would do what all the other Veteran Service officers said they would do. I felt that nothing would be done.
A few days later though, I got a call from Hurley telling me about a meeting with his boss Troy Smith, and also on board was Chautauqua County Executive Greg Edwards.
The hold-up for Mike to be honored for his service was in obtaining all his medical records. Mike had over 400 medical record pages and all were required to move forward with his case. Working for weeks produced a box from the Department of Veterans Affairs with all the needed medical records. This dedication was only one of many times a veteran was helped by Jim Hurley. It was so moving to know that Hurley not only helped a veteran, he helped a veteran who had passed away! A job like that would keep a person busy for eight hours a day, giving help to veterans who come into his office, but Hurley even found time to help a veteran who was no longer with us.
Jim Hurley married his wife Susan on May 20, 1972, in Garden Grove, Calif. They have one child, May Kate.
It is the dedicated service Jim Hurley has shown both as an officer and as a retiree that makes him a true American Hero, and why he deserves to be our Hero of the Week!