The 55th Rescue Squadron at Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz., was presented an annual token of appreciation from U.S. Air Force Gen. David Goldfein, Chief of Staff of the Air Force, May 1, 2020.
The gift was sent from the Pentagon along with a video from CSAF thanking the Airmen for successfully and efficiently executing the combat search and rescue mission downrange, including saving him after his F-16 Fighting Falcon was shot down May 2, 1999.
“My life depended on a team willing to risk everything to come get me, and they did,” said Goldfein. “That group of Airmen and all they represent means a lot to me and are a big part of the reason I’m still serving 21 years later.”
Goldfein was serving as the commander of the 555th Fighter Squadron based at Aviano, Italy, when the NATO bombing mission over the former Yugoslavia began. His F-16 was shot down over Serbia by an S-125 Neva surface-to-air missile. He ejected and was later rescued.
The remains of his F-16 Fighting Falcon are on display in the Yugoslav Aeronautical Museum at the Belgrade International Airport.
The gift was presented to the Airmen by Col. Victor Pereira, 355th Wing vice commander, while the rest of the 55th RQS joined in on a virtual teleconference, including Airmen joining in from a deployed location.
“What we do is significant, it is important,” said Pereira. “It is our moral imperative that each soldier, sailor, airman and marine on the battlefield knows that we will be there.”
The CSAR mission is pivotal in the successful execution of the National Defense Strategy and the 55th RQS has set itself apart as leading the Air Force in mission readiness and execution.
“For all of our professionals that are members of the rescue mission, your motto “That others may live” has a deeper meaning to those that you have and will save,” said Goldfein. “As just one Airman who was benefited greatly from your courage and professionalism from the bottom of my heart, thank you.”
As acknowledged by Air Force leadership, the Airmen of the 355th Wing are leading the way in sustaining high-end readiness to ensure both rescue and attack assets can deploy anywhere at any time, keeping our Air Force ready and our nation safe