Returning with Honor: Gen. Goldfein

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Synsere Howard
  • 31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs

AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy –Retired Gen. David L. Goldfein, 21st Chief of Staff of the Air Force, returned to Aviano Air Base, Italy, March 15, 2024.

Goldfein’s visit to Aviano holds a deep significance to the community. On May 2, 1999, while serving as the 555th FS commander during a mission over Serbia, Goldfein’s F-16 was struck by a surface-to-air missile. His actions during his shoot-down and subsequent rescue exemplified courage, selflessness and dedication to mission and comrades, and his story reinforces these values within the Aviano community.

“Gen. Goldfein’s story focuses on readiness, grit and honor. Key attributes, in my opinion, that define the warfighter ethos we often talk about,” said Brig. Gen. Tad Clark, 31st Fighter Wing commander. “Our mission statement, in this wing of course, is to secure the base, generate combat airpower and always be ready to deploy and fight from home.”

His visit comes 24 years after then Lt. Col. Goldfein served as the commander of the 555th Fighter Squadron from June 1998 – July 2000 at Aviano.

“Leadership is a gift,” said Goldfein. “This gift is offered by those we are privileged to serve as leaders.”

The 31st Fighter Wing honored his courage and dedication to a greater cause with the renaming of a street, “Goldfein Way,” which is located in the 555th Fighter Squadron’s complex, Gen. Goldfein’s former unit.

“Goldfein Way” will serve as a fitting tribute to the former 555 FS commander’s legacy, marking a permanent symbol of gratitude and respect for his service at Aviano Air Base.

During Goldfein’s visit, he also had the opportunity to share his wisdom and experiences with 31st Fighter Wing personnel as the guest speaker for the 31FW Annual Awards Ceremony and fly in an HH-60G Pave Hawk, a similar helicopter to the one that rescued him almost 25 years ago.   

“Like Gen. Goldfein, we need to orient ourselves to make deliberate decisions that are commensurate with our priorities,” said Clark. “Be decisive, retain a matchless sense of determination, perseverance and unwavering commitment to mission execution.”