USAF Reviewing More Valor Awards for Possible Upgrade to Medal of Honor

Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein delivers a Sept. 17 keynote address at AFA's 2019 Air, Space & Cyber Conference. Staff photo by Mike Tsukamoto.

The Air Force is reviewing a “few” valor awards for possible upgrades to the Medal of Honor, following a recent award of an Air Force Cross that was upgraded from a Silver Star and last year’s award to MSgt. John Chapman.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein said Sept. 17 that the service takes “a lot of time, a lot of effort reviewing every award against standards” that other services use to award the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award for valor.

Goldfein would not specifically name which awards the service is reviewing, or a specific number, because he did not want to start “expectations” that an upgrade would occur.

Last week, Goldfein awarded the Air Force Cross to TSgt. Daniel Keller, a combat controller with the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron. Keller was originally awarded the Silver Star before Goldfein and Lt. Gen. Scott Rice, director of the Air National Guard, decided to upgrade the award.

Keller was awarded for his actions in Afghanistan on Aug. 16, 2017, as a joint terminal attack controller. During a 15-hour mission in Nangarhar province to clear Islamic State fighters, an assault force was hit by an improvised explosive device inside a house, killing four troops. Keller, 10 feet away from the blast, suffered a traumatic brain injury but still controlled airstrikes on the IS fighters, while also firing his M4 rifle to repel them. He then helped 13 wounded troops to a landing zone under fire for evacuation, and volunteered to walk 2.5 kilometers back to the outpost to escort other wounded troops before his own evacuation.

Last year, President Donald J. Trump awarded the Medal of Honor, posthumously, to now MSgt. John Chapman. Chapman was originally awarded the Air Force Cross in 2003, but the award was upgraded after a review and new technology provided more information into Chapman’s final fight.