The Jewish vice chief of staff of the U.S. Air Force was nominated to serve as the branch’s highest-ranking officer.
Gen. David Goldfein, 57, a one-time pilot whose fighter jet was downed over Serbia in 1999, has been nominated by President Barack Obama to be the 21st chief of staff of the Air Force, the Pentagon announced Tuesday.
Goldfein is set to succeed Gen. Mark Welsh III, who has served in the position since 2012, the Air Force said in a statement.
If the Senate confirms his appointment, Goldfein will be the second Jew to serve in this position. Norton Schwartz, who preceded Welsh, was Air Force chief of staff for four years.
Goldfein flew during the Gulf War, in Afghanistan and in NATO’s missions in Yugoslavia, according to the Air Force Times.
His F-16 fighter jet was downed over Serbia when a surface-to-air missile exploded near its belly in an operation near Belgrade, forcing Goldfein to eject and parachute into an open field by moonlight. He was rescued shortly after the crash by an HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter, the Washington Post reported.
“He knows how to build and sustain key partnerships, has important war-fighting experience, and will exercise the critical judgement required to balance our manpower and resources as we shape tomorrow’s Air Force,” Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said in a statement about Goldfein.
The Air Force chief of staff is a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, top military advisers to the president and secretary of defense.
Goldfein said he was “extremely humbled” by the nomination.
“If confirmed, I pledge to serve our airmen and their families unwaveringly and honor our remarkable heritage and legacy of integrity, service and excellence,” he said.