Hero of the Week: Master Sergeant Joshua Gavulic
By Havoc 13
I never met Josh “Gav” Gavulic, but by all accounts he was an all-around genuinely good person. People who knew him well describe a dedicated father and husband, a reliable and highly skilled teammate, and a fearless warrior. I suspect the man he was on the inside significantly impacted what he did on the battlefield, and what he did on the battlefield was nothing short of heroic.
By now everyone in America knows about Army Special Forces, Navy SEALs, and other high-profile Special Operations Forces units. Even the newest major addition to the SOF community, the Marine Special Forces Command MARSOC, is grabbing headlines with their operations in Afghanistan. There are books and movies galore recounting the exploits of these warriors, hordes of young men wanting to be them, and countless wannabes and posers in bars across the country pretending they are them.
Lesser-known to the general public is what Air Force Special Operations Command, AFSOC, brings to the Special Operations table. Kids typically don’t dress up in Air Force kit for Halloween, and there aren’t a lot of people out there trying to impress the girls in the bars by claiming, “I’m Pararescue,” or “I’m with TACP.” But maybe when people better understand the kinds of things Master Sergeant Gavulic and men like him do, there will be.
With more than 16 years of service in the Air Force, Master Sergeant Josh Gavulic was no stranger to the risks inherent in his chosen profession. Shattering the stereotype of the Air Force as the “soft” military service, Gav walked the walk downrange shoulder to shoulder with some of the toughest warriors on the planet. During his 10 combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, he frequently served on the ground in direct combat, providing crucial close air support coordination for elite Special Operations Forces.
During those tours of duty he racked up an impressive list of decorations, including three awards of the Bronze Star Medal. He was also decorated not once but twice with the Joint Service Commendation Medal for valor in combat. Gav is officially credited with participating in combat operations that led to 50 EKIA and more than 80 of the enemy captured, including several high-value targets.
He graduated from the US Army’s grueling Ranger School and earned the coveted Pathfinder Badge, and was also qualified as a jumpmaster for both traditional static line and military freefall parachuting techniques. It’s pretty clear that Master Sergeant Josh Gavulic was a genuine bad ass. And during a time in our nation where the word “hero” is tossed around with impunity, it’s refreshing to see a case in which the term is properly applied.
Josh Gavulic, American hero, died last Friday during a parachute training accident in Arizona. He was 34 years old.
At the time of his death, Gavulic was assigned to the 17th Special Tactics Squadron at Fort Benning, Georgia where he served as a member of the Tactical Air Control Party or TACP. TACP members are qualified in a number of highly specialized skills including close air support to ground forces, and can often be found at the forward edge of the battle. Gavulic and the TACPs of the 17th STS supported the US Army Rangers, and it was on missions with the Rangers that he earned his awards for valor. Many of us on the Havoc13 team have worked closely with TACPs in the past, and know full well the value men like Josh Gavulic bring to the fight.
Gav continued a family tradition of military service by enlisting in the Air Force a short time after he graduated from high school, and he seemed destined for a long and distinguished career of military service before his life was tragically cut short. But Josh was more than “just” a veteran; he was also a husband and a father of six children. Published reports indicate he was universally regarded by his colleagues, neighbors, and former classmates as a fun-loving, dedicated, and devoted man. A photo of Gav and his team clowning around downrange show his lighter side, as his poses for the camera with his uniform trousers down to show off his “Ranger panties.”
A quote in the Air Force Times described Josh Gavulic as “…a tender warrior – fierce on the battlefield, a consummate professional whose commitment to his team was only surpassed by his love and commitment to his wife, Alyssa, and their wonderful children.” That seems like a fitting epitaph for any warrior.
It is clear that the Gavulic family, the Special Operations Community, and the United States of America lost a true warrior and a good man last week. A fund set up to support the family he left behind is active here.
Blue skies, Master Sergeant Gavulic.