Revisiting Holloman Heritage

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Collette Brooks
  • 49th Wing Public Affairs

France. The smell of fresh croissants sweeps through the air while the Eiffel Tower gleams and reflects in every passing tourist’s eyes. Some say the magnitude of this country’s beauty is so powerful that it can not only be seen, but also felt.

While art museums, statues and cuisine can leave an ever-lasting impression on guests, a distinctive individual also began their journey in France.

In 1959, retired United States Air Force Col. William "Goldie" and Mary Vanni Goldfein welcomed their bundle of joy into the world at Laon-Couvron Air Base, France. That baby boy now serves as the Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force, Gen. David L. Goldfein.

While France is where Goldfein began his adventure, his life took a pivotal turn 24 years later when graduating from the U.S. Air Force Academy, in Colorado, with a Bachelor of Science degree in philosophy and a set of golden bars pinned to his service coat lapels.

Throughout the last 37 years of service, Goldfein has become a seasoned world traveler. With permanent change of station orders in hand, Goldfein has been whisked around the world and stationed in various locations such as Ramstein Air Base, Germany; Aviano Air Base, Italy; and Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany.

Immediately following his assignment at Spangdahlem, Goldfein set sail June 2006 for his next assignment to hold the position of base commander here at Holloman.

During a February 2007 interview, Goldfein answered what challenges he could possibly face as the new 49th Fighter Wing commander.

“The biggest challenge we face in this very fiscally constrained time of transition, where we have a lot of manpower changes going on across the Air Force, is creating the environment to achieve a fairly aggressive vision,” Goldfein said. “This is probably the biggest challenge I have and I think I probably share that with all my fellow wing commanders this year.”

Goldfein overcame this challenge with determination, resiliency and forward thinking for Holloman’s future.

“Like all wing commanders, our responsibility really falls into two big categories: vision and environment,” he said. “Our job is to look downrange and for the time period we are entrusted in this position to define and develop the plan to take the organization to the next level.”

Goldfein’s goal of developing Holloman into a great place was not only accomplished, but felt by those around him.

Steven Hale, 49th Wing Inspector General management internal control toolkit administrator, previously Tech. Sgt. Steven Hale, 49th Wing Command Section noncommissioned officer, had the pleasure of working directly with Goldfein from June 2006 to June 2008.

“He was a true leader and a visionary,” said Hale. “A slogan for the base and the Alamogordo community was created under his command, ‘the friendliest place on Earth,’ which united the base and the Alamogordo community.”

Goldfein’s wife, Dawn Goldfein, also shared what memorable moments she experienced during her time here.

“We were at Holloman from 2006 to 2008,” she said. “Our youngest daughter graduated from high school there and our oldest daughter was in college at the time. The local community was very supportive of the base. It was a privilege to be stationed there.”

With Goldfein’s best friend, confidant and avid supporter by his side, he was able to develop several programs that aided in positively influencing local community members.
“The first ever Air and Space Expo was held on Holloman Air Force Base,” said Dawn Goldfein. “It was open to the public, but the first half of opening day was open to only children, where 8000 students attended.”

Dawn Goldfein reflected on an interesting coincidence that occurred several years after that Air and Space Expo event.

“Dave, in his current position (as CSAF), was traveling when a young Airman approached him,” she continued. “She said, paraphrased, ‘you will not remember me, but I remember you. I was in middle school when I attended the Air and Space Expo, on Holloman AFB, and I was so impressed with what I saw that day’.”

That young Airmen continued by sharing how that expo, Goldfein facilitated many years ago, not only changed the trajectory of her life, but made her certain that she would join the Air Force.

Another program developed by Goldfein that focused on inspiring and encouraging the Holloman and local community members, was the School Partnership Program.

“Airmen on Holloman Air Force Base volunteered to tutor students in the community,” said Dawn Goldfein. “This program helped them develop a relationship with an adult working on base, develop a better understanding of math, science, language, etc., and how it applies to jobs in the Air Force. It helped them develop an appreciation for a good education.”

During Goldfein’s time here at Holloman, he created strong bonds with the local community and international counterparts with innovating thinking and fun activities.

He rode his motorcycle with the American Legion Riders for Operation Wounded Warrior to Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, to deliver care items for wounded troops. He met with nearby Native American leaders to discuss education programs and base lodging hospitality care. He cut the ribbon to the brand new Office of Special Investigation building and also developed the radio talk show, “Commander’s Corner.”

Although Goldfein had a hand in multiple activities, programs and events, one of his most noted accomplishments during his time at Holloman was in October 2006, when he became known as the “last F-117A Bandit.”

“Colonel Goldfein will be number 708, the last Bandit,” said Lt. Col. Chris Knehans, then 7th Fighter Squadron commander.

“The Bandit nickname harkens back to when the Stealth Fighter Program in Tonopah, Nevada, was classified,” said Knehans. “The formal training unit, now known as the 7th Fighter Squadron, was the 417th Fighter Squadron ‘Bandits’.”

Knehans said using this nickname allowed stealth pilots to talk about being “Bandits” without being associated with the classified program.

The strenuous course included 85 hours of classroom academics on aircraft systems, weapons, combat navigation and survival egress, as well as 24 simulator sessions and 13 flights.

“The FTU is deactivating (in 2006) because its mission is complete,” said Knehans. “There are enough qualified and experienced F-117A pilots to do the mission until the retirement of the F-117A.”

Despite aircraft and unit changes occurring throughout his time as the 49th Fighter Wing commander, Goldfein continued to handle those types of new developments with grace and ease.

“A change of airframe for the base took place during his time in command,” said Hale. “His foresight and leadership made the transition flawless. His way forward ensured a great relationship with the downtown community was maintained.”

Goldfein will soon be able to see how much Alamogordo has developed and changed since turning his time of being Holloman base commander 12 years ago.

“12 years later and Holloman is still just as wonderful as I recall,” said Goldfein. “Team Holloman members and the local community have always been welcoming, gracious and generous. It’s comforting to know that the strong bond between the locals and the military community has stood the test of time. That cohesion is crucial in keeping our alliance strong and ever-lasting.”