Survivor of Ten deployments
While most Americans are eager to put the era of Iraq and Afghanistan behind them, our men and women in uniform don’t get such leisure. They must, under increasingly difficult budget conditions, continue training for the next mission. That goes double for the men of U.S. Special Operations Command. Less well-known than the SEALs or Delta Force, yet a crucial element of special operations, are the U.S. Air Force’s special tactics air commandos. They are often the first inserted into enemy territory, where they prepare landing sites, direct air traffic, and provide air cover during operations — all while shouldering a rifle and fighting alongside their fellow special operators.
In late February, one of America’s air commandos made the ultimate sacrifice, but not on the battlefield. While doing parachute training, Master Sergeant Joshua Gavulic died in an accident in Arizona. Service members die during training all the time; it is one of the least understood hazards of serving in the military. Yet the terrible irony of MSgt. Gavulic’s death is how much death he had avoided in battle. It is incomprehensible to me, as it is to most civilians, to learn that MSgt. Gavulic deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan ten times. As a tactical air controller, he was put into the very thick of the worst fighting, directing air cover for special operators often while under intense fire. Ten times he spent months fighting America’s worst enemies, and came home each time. Came home to his wife and six children. And then went back out training, preparing for the next mission. Now, he deploys and trains no more.