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The Air Force could potentially upgrade 'a few' valor awards to the Medal of Honor
NATIONAL HARBOR, Maryland — The Air Force is reviewing whether some airmen's valor awards deserve to be upgraded to the Medal of Honor, Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said on Tuesday.
Goldfein revealed that several airmen are being considered for the nation's highest military award during a press conference at the Air Force Association's annual Air, Space, and Cyber Conference. He declined to say exactly who could receive the Medal of Honor, pending the outcome of the review process.
"I don't want to start expectations," Goldfein said. "I don't want to get in front of Congress. It's the Congressional Medal of Honor, so the president is the one who's got to take a look at that. I'm not going to give you a name. I'll just tell you we have a few right now that we're looking at."
When Task & Purpose asked if Tech Sgt. Daniel Keller's Air Force Cross could be one of the awards upgraded to the Medal of Honor, Goldfein said there's "always a chance," but that is not something the Air Force is considering at the moment.
Keller saved countless lives during an August 2017 battle in Afghanistan against 350 ISIS fighters. The combat controller personally rescued U.S. service members from the kill zone during the desperate fight, engaged the enemy with his weapon, and called in airstrikes that kept ISIS at bay and allowed his team to be extracted.
During the 15-hour fight, Keller was wounded by an explosion and was later diagnosed with Traumatic Brain Injury.
Despite the "just unbelievable actions" that Keller performed during the battle, Goldfein said he does not believe there is a review to see if the combat controller should receive the Medal of Honor.
"I will tell you we're not looking at that for that particular mission set," Goldfein said. "It was reviewed. We take a lot of time and put a lot of effort into reviewing every award an airman gets. It was upgraded from a Silver Star to an Air Force Cross, which is the highest medal we can give."
For U.S. service members who have fought alongside the Kurds, President Donald Trump's decision to approve repositioning U.S. forces in Syria ahead of Turkey's invasion is a naked betrayal of valued allies.
"I am ashamed for the first time in my career," one unnamed special operator told Fox News Jennifer Griffin.
In a Twitter thread that went viral, Griffin wrote the soldier told her the Kurds were continuing to support the United States by guarding tens of thousands of ISIS prisoners even though Turkey had nullified an arrangement under which U.S. and Turkish troops were conducting joint patrols in northeastern Syria to allow the Kurdish People's Protection Units, or YPG, to withdraw.
"The Kurds are sticking by us," the soldier told Griffin. "No other partner I have ever dealt with would stand by us."
Defense Secretary Mark Esper has confirmed that a nightmare scenario has come to pass: Captured ISIS fighters are escaping as a result of Turkey's invasion of Kurdish-held northeast Syria.
Turkey's incursion has led to "the release of many dangerous ISIS detainees," Esper said in a statement on Monday.
Video footage of a purported "bombing of Kurd civilians" by Turkish military forces shown on ABC News appeared to be a nighttime firing of tracer rounds at a Kentucky gun range.
The U.S. military's seemingly never-ending mission supporting civil authorities along the southwestern border will last at least another year.
On Sept. 3, Defense Secretary Mark Esper approved a request from the Department of Homeland Security to provide a total of up to 5,500 troops along the border until Sept. 30, 2020, Lt. Gen. Laura Richardson, commander of U.S. Army North, said on Monday.