Gen. David Goldfein to Be Second Jewish U.S. Air Force Chief

The battle-tested pilot participated in operations in Iraq and the Balkans and is well known to Israeli officers.

Gen. David Goldfein.
U.S. Air Force

Gen. David Goldfein will become the second Jew to command the U.S. Air Force. His appointment as air force chief of staff was announced Tuesday by the Pentagon.

Goldfein, who has been the vice chief of staff of the U.S. Air Force since August, will be the first Jewish combat pilot to hold the top position, and will be the second Jewish man in the post after Norton Schwartz, who served as air force chief of staff from 2008 to 2012.

His new position will also make him one of the seven members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a panel comprised of a chairman, a deputy chairman and the highest ranking officer of the U.S. Air Force, Army, Navy, Marine Corps and National Guard. The joint chiefs serve as the top military advisors to the president and the defense secretary.

In 1994, U.S. President Bill Clinton appointed Jeremy Boorda, a Jewish admiral, chief of naval operations, the highest post in the U.S. Navy. But Boorda committed suicide after doubt was cast on the validity of the combat ribbons he received during the Vietnam War.

Goldfein, born in 1961, is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy. As an F-16 pilot, he participated in operations in Iraq and the Balkans.

His previous positions have included stints as a squadron commander, a wing commander, executive officer to the commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe and, in his last overseas posting, commander of U.S. Air Forces Central Command.

That was followed by a stint as director of the Joint Staff, a post that involves helping the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to manage that body.

Goldfein, who is well known to officers in the Israel Air Force, must still be confirmed by the Senate before his appointment becomes final.

The Obama administration also recently asked the Senate to approve America’s first female theater commander.

Gen. Lori Robinson, also of the Air Force, is slated to become the head of U.S. Northern Command. Another female four-star general currently serves as vice chief of naval operations.