The Philmont Staff Association recently honored its 2019 Distinguished Staff Alumni: Gen. David L. Goldfein, the 21st Air Force chief of staff. Goldfein spent the summer of 1980 in the Philmont Backcountry as a Ranger.
“You just know you’re gonna inspire [the Scouts] while you’re here,” he said. “You’re going to change their lives.”
Goldfein and Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson visited with Philmont staff at the Baldy Pavilion on Wednesday, May 29.
Goldfein has been serving in the United States Air Force since receiving his commission from the Air Force Academy in 1983. Since then, he’s served honorably in a variety of roles and positions for the Air Force, earning some of the Air Force’s highest honors for valor.
Wilson directly impacted Philmont through her sponsorship of a bill that saved the Valle Vidal from encroachment by oil companies. She has spent years of service in the Air Force and the U.S. House of Representatives.
Mark Stinnett, head of Philmont’s Program Camping Task Force, had the privilege of introducing General Goldfein to the 2019 staff.
“Each year, the Philmont Staff Association selects a former member as a recipient of our Distinguished Alumni Staff Award,” he said.
Stinnett went on to praise both Goldfein’s illustrious career and strong character, sharing his own warm congratulations to the returning Ranger.
Goldfein spoke to staff about how the Philmont experience shaped his life. He found himself at Philmont in 1980 after taking a break from the Air Force Academy. After working at Philmont Goldfein decided to ride a bicycle around the country.
While traveling from town to town he was welcomed by strangers and his passion for protecting the citizens of the U.S. was renewed. He eventually returned to the academy and received his commission in 1983.
Goldfein participated in Operation Allied Force against Yugoslavia, where his plane was shot down by a surface-to-air missile. The courage of the pararescue team that recovered him is something he’s never forgotten.
“That’s the comradery of the United States Air Force,” he said. “And it shouldn’t be surprising to you, because that’s the comradery of Philmont. That’s what you do.”
With the support of his home base, Goldfein was able to return to duty just one day after being shot down. He has now spent 36 years serving in the Air Force and reflects on his time at Philmont fondly.
During Goldfein’s closing remarks he praised Philmont staff for their dedication to improving youth’s lives.
“As Chief of Staff of the Air Force, as a father, and now as a proud grandfather, I would just say thank you for what you do,” he said. “It means a lot.”