For the first time since its founding in 1947, the United States Air Force is going to be under the command of a Jewish Chief of Staff.
On Tuesday the Pentagon announced that it had appointed General David L. Goldfein to succeed incumbent USAF Chief of Staff, General Mark Welsh. Welsh is set to retire in July.
With more than three decades of serving in the USAF, Goldfein has built an impressive record both as a pilot and officer.
Goldfein is a veteran of the 1990-91 Gulf War, the 1998-1999 Kosovo War, and the war in Afghanistan. He flew combat missions in both the F-117 stealth fighter and F-16 Flying Falcon.
During a mission over the fomer Yugoslavia in 1999, Goldfein was shot down over enemy territory. Trapped behind enemy lines, Goldfein snuck across Serbian farms, hiding from enemy patrols, until he was able to reach the extraction point.
With enemy forces closing in, a rescue mission managed to save Goldfein, extracting him in the middle of a heavy firefight. The helicopter which recovered Goldfein was struck at least five times by enemy fire during the rescue operation.
“We never know when some young airman is going to risk everything to come pull us out,” Goldfein told the El Paso Times. “They get a bottle of scotch from me every year”.
Goldfein’s career impressed John McCain, chair of the Armed Services Committee, which must approve Goldfein’s appointment later this year.
A former naval aviator, McCain was also shot down in combat. McCain was eventually captured and held prisoner in a Vietnamese prisoner of war camp.
"He has an excellent bio and an excellent reputation," the Arizona Senator said. "From everything I've heard, he is pretty impressive."
For Goldfein, the US Air Force has become a part of his family heritage. His father served in the USAF, as did his older brother Stephen, who achieved the rank of Major General. Today, one of Goldfein’s two daughters also serves in the USAF.