Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone, widely proclaimed a hero after he charged a gunman Aug. 21 on a train in Belgium, will be promoted to staff sergeant, Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh announced Tuesday.
Welsh decided he wanted to recognize Stone for the way he has responded to the crush of attention since he helped subdue the gunman.
"He has inspired a number of people by the way he as responded to this – his humility," Welsh said at the Air Force Association's 2015 national convention. "He has stayed very true to himself from the very beginning. He has not let the moment overwhelm him. He has represented the Air Force very well and very proudly and, basically, he has an instinct for saying and doing the right thing, which I think is going to be a very, very good attribute in a young NCO supervisor."
The promotion is in addition to the previously announced Purple Heart and Airman's Medal Stone will receive Thursday. Welsh said that Stone was eligible for the Purple Heart under a precedent set by the 2009 attack at Fort Hood, but he is not eligible for other combat valor awards.
"As a result of the Fort Hood study, if you remember, it was decided that if the injury was the result of a terrorist act, then you could consider the military member for the Purple Heart, but we have not recommended to the boss [Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James] that she consider him for any other combat award."
Stone, speaking to reporters earlier Tuesday, said he fully expected to be mowed down when he charged the gunman on the train in Belgium.
"I didn't think I was going to make it — at all," Stone said told reporters Tuesday at the Air Force Association's 2015 national convention. "So I was very shocked when I hit him."
Stone and two friends — Army Spc. Alek Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler — took down the gunman while they were on vacation, riding on a train from Amsterdam to Paris. Now Stone is set to receive the Purple Heart and Airman's Medal on Thursday at the Pentagon.
When he heard he was receiving the Purple Heart and Airman's Medal, both awards, "My heart wanted to jump out of my chest because that was just the honor of all," Stone said.
Although he has been called a "hero," Stone said he considers himself just another airman.
"I believe any other airman in the Air Force would have done the same thing," he said.
Stone said he didn't have a plan when he ran at the gunman. He credits his Jiu Jitsu skills with saving his life in the scuffle, during which he was stabbed about an inch-and-a-half from his carotid artery and almost had his thumb severed.
Even though he expected to be killed, Stone did not hesitate to try to stop the gunman from killing the passengers on the train.
"I'm not going to run away," he said. "I'm not going to leave everyone to die. I'd rather die trying than sit back and watch everyone get slaughtered."