PSA awards General David L. Goldfein Distinguished Staff Alumni Award

Gen. Goldfein addresses Philmont staff ahead of the 2019 summer season. Goldfein said his experience working as a ranger at Philmont and his time spent traveling around the country helped prepare him to embrace leadership and service. Photographed by Ryan Soldanels.

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.

Secretary Wilson and Gen. Goldfein embrace after Goldfein's speech. Wilson fought to save Valle Vidal from encroachment by oil companies. Photographed by Gabe Jackson.
Both Secretary Wilson and Gen. Goldfein met personally with staff after the event to answer questions. Photographed by Dominic Baima.

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.”

Picture of Mark Cordeiro

Mark Cordeiro

Mark Cordeiro is a second-year Philmont staffer out of Edmond, Oklahoma. He’s currently a senior at the University of Oklahoma studying professional writing. Mark spent several summers of his youth at the PTC’s youth programs and went on his first trek in 2014.

5 responses to “PSA awards General David L. Goldfein Distinguished Staff Alumni Award”

  1. So Dave bicycled around the USA immediately following his summer in Philmont in 1980. Curious. Did he do the formal three week USAFA Ranger tour, sanctioned as a leadership summer program? Or did he instead spend the entire summer; of his own volition; after taking personal leave from the Academy on the then offered “Stop-Out” retention program (one year break from USAFA to “readjust” one’s attitude)

  2. If you click on the video and listen to his address, he answers that question in detail.

  3. I played banjo with Dave on the Philsongs album. Boy of the Country is all his.

  4. The General – Dave – is truly a man of great character. Thanks for sharing this for those of us who couldn’t attend in person. I’m honored to say I had the privilege of knowing him back in the day…