Chief Lankford dies at 89

  • Published
  • I.G. Brown Training and Education Center
Retired Chief Master Sgt. Paul Lankford, a Bataan Death March survivor and the first commandant of the Air National Guard Non-Commissioned Officer Academy here at McGhee Tyson Air National Guard Base, passed away Aug. 22 at the age of 89.
Lankford was buried with U.S. military funeral honors on Aug. 27 at the Sherwood Memorial Cemetery in Alcoa, Tenn. 

A memorial service honoring Lankford will be held from 4-5 p.m., on Sept. 5 in Spruance Hall followed by a retreat ceremony at the Air National Guard I.G. Brown Training and Education Center and a celebration at the Armed Forces Club.

Born in Gadsden, Ala., Lankford enlisted in the Army Air Corps in October 1939 and served in World War II with the 27th Bomb Group in the Philippine Islands. He was 23 years old in 1942, when he was captured by the Japanese military.
During captivity, Lankford was forced to march 65 miles in five days under the hot Philippine sun with no food or water. He was forced to bury his fellow Soldiers, work as slave labor and endure torture. Lankford was held captive for three years and six months until Aug. 20, 1945.
When he returned to the United States, Lankford continued to serve in various stateside assignments as well as a tour in Hawaii.
He graduated from and then joined the staff of the Air Defense Command Non-commissioned Officer Academy at Otis Air Force Base, Mass., in June 1958.
After seven years of teaching, Lankford became deputy commandant of the NCO Academy at Hamilton AFB, Calif. During this assignment, he and the staff helped the Air National Guard to establish and graduate the first ANG NCO Academy class in June 1968 at McGhee Tyson Airbase.
He returned to Hamilton AFB and retired from the Air Force on Nov. 1, 1968 with over 29 years of active service.
Maj. Gen. I.G. Brown, then the director of the Air National Guard, selected him to be the first enlisted commandant of the ANG NCO Academy and Leadership School. He served from 1968 to 1981.
During this time, he was instrumental in creating the ANG Leadership School and later the Seminar for Direct Commissioned Officers for the Air National Guard, which later became the current Academy of Military Science, the only commissioning source for ANG officers.
Over the past 40 years, the Air National Guard's NCO Academy and Airman Leadership School has graduated over 30,000 enlisted members.
On Dec. 17, members of The I.G. Brown Air National Guard Training and Education Center will memorialize Lankford by naming the Air National Guard Noncommissioned Officer Academy and Airman Leadership School in his honor.