11:14 AM

Gen. Goldfein Reunites with 1999 Rescuer, Former CAP Cadet, Before Spaatz Association Speech

Lt. Col. Morgan Torp-Pedersen
Public Affairs Officer
Tennessee Wing

Gen. David L. Goldfein, chief of staff of the U.S. Air Force, received a surprise Saturday night at the 17th annual Spaatz Association Mid-Winter Dinner and Awards Gala in Arlington, Virginia.

It happened as U.S. Army Maj. Lee Chase spoke about the importance of relationships to Civil Air Patrol members gathered from across the country for the event.

“I met Gen. Goldfein several years ago at a retirement ceremony he initiated for a good friend of mine. This friend of mine was in Civil Air Patrol as a cadet and graduated from Civil Air Patrol’s pararescue orientation course about the same time frame that I did,” Chase said.

“This friend went on to rescue Gen. Goldfein in 1999 in Serbia. He then went on to become a pararescue chief and was the first PJOC (Pararescue and Survival Orientation Course) graduate to become a pararescue chief.”

Retired U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Jeremy Hardy, who served as a cadet in CAP’s Indiana Wing, walked toward the stage to once again reunite with Goldfein before the four-star general gave his keynote address.

“I’ve been the chief for about 2½ years. and this is the best surprise I have ever had,” said Goldfein, whom Hardy rescued after Goldfein's s F-16CJ fighter jet was shot down over Serbia early May 2, 1999.

“Under the steadfast leadership of [Civil Air Patrol National Commander and CEO] Maj. Gen. Smith and Chief [Master Sgt. Robert] Dandridge, this all-star team takes young men and women from diverse upbringings and prepares them to live and learn and lead as the eyes of the home skies,” Goldfein said of CAP. “The Civil Air Patrol mission remains vital to protecting the homeland. It’s what makes this one Civil Air Patrol an essential part of our One Air Force — the best in the world.”

”It’s no surprise to me that so many Civil Air Patrol cadets go on to continue serving our nation either in or out of uniform. So as our nation’s warriors, it’s our moral obligation to be ready to fight and win in order to preserve the freedom that was handed to us by those we are privileged to follow,” Goldfein said.

He cited ”a certain Royal Air Force pilot who served in World War I, and then transitioned to serve in the New Hampshire Wing during World War II. If it wasn’t for George ‘Scotty’ Wilson’s enduring love for the skies and aviation which he passed down to his grandchildren, we probably wouldn’t have won the lottery with our current secretary of the Air Force, his granddaughter, Dr. Heather Wilson," Goldfein said.

"Together, all of us here tonight, we share a special calling — because we take the greatest treasure in our nation — young men and women who stand and sign up to serve their nation in a time of war, and we organize them, we train them, we lead them and we marry them up with the best technology on the planet, and working together we make the world a better place for our children and for our grandchildren.”

Goldfein finished the evening by thanking CAP members for their legacy, courage and patriotism.

The Spaatz Association gathering was the capstone of CAP's legislative week, during which members visited members of Congress to present CAP’s annual report. The association was formed in 1994 to promote and maintain the prestige of the Gen. Carl A. Spaatz Award, CAP’s highest cadet achievement, earned by less than one-half of 1 percent of all cadets.

After his address, Goldfein presented four cadets with their Spaatz awards:

  • Cadet Col. Julie M. Demyanonvich of the Virginia Wing's Burke Composite Squadron.
  • Cadet Col. Jacob K. Erdman of the Wisconsin Wing’s La Crosse Composite Squadron.
  • Cadet Col. Laivi Y. Grossman of the Illinois Wing's Palwaukee Composite Squadron.
  • Cadet Col. Jared F. Harrison of the Virginia Wing’s Langley Composite Squadron.

Photos by Lt. Col. Robert Bowden, CAP national photographer