Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone, who along with two childhood friends foiled a terror attack on a train from Amsterdam to Paris in August, will be awarded the Purple Heart and promoted two ranks to staff sergeant.
U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh III made the surprise announcement Tuesday at the Air Force Association’s Air and Space Conference and Technology Exposition in Washington D.C. Stone’s promotion is slated to take effect on Nov. 1, he said.
Welsh also took to Facebook to explain his move.
"[Spencer’s] already slated to sew on senior airman next month and we'll promote him to staff on Nov. 1," he wrote. "This humble Airman has an instinct for doing the right thing, which I think is going to suit him very well as a young [non-commission officer] supervisor."
Stone, 23, was vacationing with Sacramento State University senior Anthony Sadler, 23, and Oregon National Guard Spc. Alek Skarlatos, 22, on Aug. 21. The men were aboard a high-speed French train when they subdued and hogtied Ayoub El-Khazzani, a man with ties to radical Islam who was carrying a handgun and an assault weapon on the train.
The first to tackle and disarm the gunman, Stone was slashed in the neck and his thumb was nearly sliced off. He underwent rehab in Germany before returning to the United States.
“I 100 percent believe that Brazilian jiujitsu saved my life at that moment,” Stone told the Air Force Times.
He continued: "You don’t have to be the strongest person to be good at Brazilian jiujitsu. You just have to be a good thinker."
“Every move I used on him was very, very basic — you can learn in five minutes. If we had a course like that in the Air Force for people to learn basic moves, it could help anyone in a situation like that.”
The trio has been catapulted to instant stardom, receiving congratulatory calls from President Barack Obama and the Legion of Honor from French President Francois Hollande. Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson also hosted a parade in their honor on Sept. 11.
Sadler also was invited on NBC’s "The Tonight Show" with Jimmy Fallon – during which he was given the keys to a brand new Camaro – while Skarlatos is paired with professional dancer Lindsay Arnold on the new season of ABC’s "Dancing with the Stars."
According to the Air Force Times, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said Tuesday that Stone will receive the Purple Heart as well as the Air Force’s highest noncombat award, the Airman’s Medal. He is slated to be recognized at an award ceremony Thursday, which Defense Secretary Ash Carter will preside over.
Welsh was quoted as saying, "There’s just something special about this profession; there’s something special about the people who share it, and there’s something really special about the pride that consumes them."