In 1999, tThen Lt. Col. David Goldfein was flying as part of air operations against Serbia when a surface-air-missile slammed into his F-16.
Goldfein ejected. He was not on the ground long before a rescue helicopter landed for him, drawing enemy fire, the El Paso Times reported in 2007. Five bullet holes were later discovered in the helicopter's fuselage. That happened in 1999.
"We never know when some young airman is going to risk everything to come pull us out," Goldfein told the El Paso Times "You become extremely humble. They get a bottle of Sscotch from me every year — a single-malt, good quality"
Now a three-star general and director of the Joint Staff, Goldfein has been nominated to get his fourth star and become the Air Force vice chief of staff. If confirmed by the Senate, he would replace Gen. Larry Spencer, who is retiring.
Goldfein has flown combat missions over Iraq, Afghanistan and Serbia, according to his Air Force biography. His military decorations include the Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit with oak leaf cluster and the Distinguished Flying Cross with oak leaf cluster.
The 1983 Air Force Academy graduate is currently director of the Joint Staff at the Pentagon. Prior to his current Pentagon taking that assignment, Goldfein, a 1983 Air Force Academy graduate, served as commander of U.S. Air Forces Central Command from August 2011 to July 2013.
After two female airmen were cyber-bullied in 2012 when they received Bronze Stars for non-combat actions, Goldfein wrote a letter to Air Force Times defending the two for their service in Afghanistan.
"No one Air Force Specialty Code is any more important than the next in this theater — it takes the entire team working together to get the job done," he wrote in the April 30, 2012, letter. "Airmen like Tech. Sgt. Christina Gamez and Tech. Sgt. Sharma Haynes are the bedrock of our organization."
At the AFCENT change of command ceremony in July 2013, Army Gen. Lloyd Austin, head of U.S. Central Command, praised Goldfein's leadership.
"He has done what is right for the unit, what is right for the United States Air Force, for the airrmen and for their families," Austin said, according to a 2013 Air Force news story. "He is a team player, a team builder, and a truly exceptional leader."
Goldfein's His wife, Dawn A. Goldfein, has taught kKindergarten in the U.S. and Italy; she has tutored at elementary schools; and she has served on the board of Officer's' Spouses' Club around the world, according to her biography on the Military Child Education Coalition's website.
She met her future husband at Kaiserslautern American High School in Germany and they became high school sweethearts, the biography says. They married in June 1983 and they have two daughters, one of whom him is in the Air Force.