Air Force Weighing Medal of Honor Nominations for More Airmen

Members of the Air Force and its predecessor organizations have earned four Medals of Honor in World War I, 38 in World War II, 4 in the Korean Conflict and 14 in the Vietnam War. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)
Members of the Air Force and its predecessor organizations have earned four Medals of Honor in World War I, 38 in World War II, 4 in the Korean Conflict and 14 in the Vietnam War. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

NATIONAL HARBOR, Maryland -- The U.S. Air Force is reviewing a number of airmen who could be considered for the Medal of Honor, the service's top general said Tuesday.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein told reporters at the Air, Space and Cyber conference here that the service, in conjunction with Congress and the White House, is looking at nomination packages to give deserving airmen the nation's top military honor.

Goldfein would not give names or specify how many airmen are under consideration.

"I'll just tell you we have a few that we're looking at," Goldfein said.

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The conversation centered around the recent Air Force Cross awarded to Kentucky Air National Guard Tech. Sgt. Daniel Keller, who aided in a strenuous 15-hour mission to medevac fallen troops during a battle in Afghanistan's Nangarhar province in 2017.

Keller, from the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, was part of an assault force of 130 troops from Combined Joint Special Operations Air Component Afghanistan on a mission to clear Islamic State-Khorasan, or ISIS-K, fighters from a valley near the Pakistan border.

Goldfein said the service is not reviewing a nomination package for Keller at this time.

"We take a lot of time and effort to review every [package] against the standards to which the joint force and the secretary of defense awards that level of [honor]," he said.

Last year, President Donald Trump posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor to Air Force Tech. Sgt. John Chapman, a combat controller attached to SEAL Team 6 during Operation Anaconda. He was the first airman to earn the Medal of Honor since the Vietnam War.

Chapman died during the mission in Afghanistan in 2002. The SEAL team pulled out, believing that Chapman was dead. Following a months-long investigation, the Pentagon determined that he had lived for more than an hour after the SEALs left.

The Defense Department in 2016 launched a formal review to audit more than 1,100 post-9/11 valor citations to determine whether they warrant an upgraded award.

As part of that process, the Air Force has determined that eight airmen should receive a total of nine medal upgrades (one service member received two), with honors ranging from the Air Force Cross to the Silver Star to the Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor.

The three-year medal review effort will conclude Dec. 31.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

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