Retired July 1, 1986. Died Sep. 4, 2003.
General Charles A. Gabriel is the 11th chief of staff of the U.S. Air Force, Washington, D.C. As chief, he serves as the senior uniformed Air Force Officer responsible for the organization, training and equipage of a combined active duty, Guard, Reserve and civilian force of nearly one million people serving at approximately 3,000 locations in the United States and overseas. As a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he and the other service chiefs function as the principal military advisers to the secretary of defense, National Security Council and the president.
The general was born in Lincolnton, N.C., in 1928. Following graduation from high school, he attended Catawba College, Salisbury, N.C., for two years before entering the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, N.Y. He graduated from the academy in 1950 with a bachelor of science degree and a commission in the U.S. Air Force. The general earned a master of science degree in engineering management from The George Washington University, Washington, D.C., in 1963. He graduated from the Command and Staff Course at the Naval War College, Newport, R.I., in 1962; and the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, Fort Lesley J. McNair, Washington, D.C., in 1967.
After graduation from West Point, General Gabriel entered pilot training at Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas, and completed advanced training at Craig Air Force Base, Ala., in December 1951. His first assignment was to South Korea, where he flew 100 combat missions in F-51s and F-86s and was credited with shooting down two MiG-15s.
From December 1952 to November 1955, the general was assigned to the 86th Fighter-Interceptor Wing, Landstuhl Air Base, Germany, as a pilot and later a squadron air operations officer. He then spent three years as an air officer commanding at the U.S. Air Force Academy, Colo.
In July 1959 General Gabriel transferred to Moody Air Force Base, Ga., where he served as adjutant for the 3550th Pilot Training Group and commander of the Headquarters Squadron Section. Following graduation from the Naval War College in August 1962 and completion of his master's degree at The George Washington University in August 1963, he was assigned as a staff officer in the Directorate of Plans, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Washington, D.C. In August 1966 he entered the Industrial College of the Armed Forces.
Returning to Europe in August 1967, the general served as executive officer to the chief of staff, Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, Mons, Belgium. He returned to the United States for combat crew training in July 1970 and was subsequently assigned as commander of the 432nd Tactical Reconnaissance Wing at Udorn Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand, flying 152 combat missions in F-4s. He returned to the Air Staff in July 1972, as deputy for operational forces and deputy director of operations.
General Gabriel served as deputy chief of staff for operations at Headquarters Tactical Air Command, Langley Air Force Base, Va., from February 1975 to August 1977. He then became deputy commander in chief, U.S. Forces Korea and deputy commander in chief, United Nations Command, Seoul, South Korea.
In April 1979 he returned to Air Force headquarters as deputy chief of staff for operations, plans and readiness. The general served as commander in chief, United States Air Forces in Europe and commander of Allied Air Forces Central Europe at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, from August 1980 to June 1982. He assumed his present duties in July 1982.
Gabriel is a command pilot with more than 4,200 flying hours. His military decorations and awards include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, Air Force Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit with oak leaf cluster, Distinguished Flying Cross with four oak leaf clusters, Air Medal with 14 oak leaf clusters, Air Force Commendation Medal with oak leaf cluster, Presidential Unit Citation Emblem, Air Force Outstanding Unit Award Ribbon, Republic of Korea Order of National Security Merit (Gugseon Medal) and Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation.
He was promoted to general Aug. 1, 1980.