FORT BENNING, Ga. --
The life and legacy of an Air Force Special Operations Command tactical air control party operator was forever cemented into Special Tactics and Fort Benning history with a building dedication in his namesake.
On Feb. 21, 2014, U.S. Air Force Joshua M. Gavulic, who was an ST TACP operator with the 17th Special Tactics Squadron, was killed in a parachute accident while conducting a military free-fall proficiency training mission in Eloy, Arizona.
Today, more than 60 friends, teammates and family gathered during a ceremony at the newly renamed Master Sgt. Joshua M. Gavulic Human Performance Center, here.
After years of persistence, the building dedication came to life through the hard work of senior leaders and teammates with the 17th STS with the goal of helping to preserve Gavulic’s memory forever within the walls on the squadron he served at for nearly a decade.
“The commander was the driving force, but it is the culmination of almost five years of efforts from various members of the squadron who wanted to ensure that Master Sgt. Gavulic's memory lived on within the 17th Special Tactics Squadron,” said the senior enlisted leader with the 17th STS. “It is also important to show the rest of the squadron, who has had members deployed in harm’s way for over 6,000 consecutive days that if something were to happen to them, as a squadron we will ensure that their memory remains at the forefront of everything we do in the unit.”
One teammate who was present during the accident reflected on Gavulic’s legacy and the hole that was left within the squadron.
“The days and months that followed were hard to say the least; we’d lost our operations superintendent, a teammate, a friend and so many others lost so much more,” said a Special Tactics TACP operator with the 17th STS. “Gav was a combat proven warrior, he was a husband, father, son, businessman, great friend and the best Fourth of July host anyone could ask for.”
Gavulic enlisted in the Air Force on June 10, 1998 and immediately entered the TACP apprentice course at Hurlburt Field, Florida. He received his first assignment to the 11th Air Support Operations Squadron, Fort Hood, Texas, on April 15, 1999, as a battalion TACP operator. In 2005, he was then assigned to the 17th ASOS, later reassigned as the 17th STS, where he was responsible for integrating air combat power and surface fires into the ground scheme of maneuver, enabling dynamic, synergistic, and lethal firepower onto the battlefield.
Special Tactics operators with the 17th STS, 24th Special Operations Wing, Air Force Special Operations Command, deploy with special operations forces to provide joint terminal attack control and maximize the impacts of air power by controlling and directing precise strikes to destroy enemy terrain, positions and resources. The 24th SOW is the only wing in the Air Force dedicated to Special Tactics Airmen, providing precision strike, global access, personnel recovery and battlefield surgery.
The 16-year veteran deployed 10 times in support of Operations ENDURING FREEDOM and IRAQI FREEDOM between 2001 and 2014. He was a highly-qualified TACP who earned several additional qualifications by completing Army Airborne and Military Free Fall Schools, Static Line Jumpmaster Course, Military Free Fall Jumpmaster Course, Pathfinder School and Ranger School.
“Master Sgt. Gavulic was an incredibly valued member of the unit with multiple combat deployments, awards, decorations, and unrivaled leadership,” the SEL said. “He was well-liked and respected by both his peers and his leadership, and set the example that we ultimately want to see in all of our Airmen.”
His awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal with two oak leaf clusters, Air Force Commendation Medal with oak leaf cluster, Joint Service Commendation Medal with Valor and one oak leaf cluster and the Army Commendation Medal.
Following the ceremony, more than 40 Airmen, teammates and family members performed memorial push-ups, a Special Tactics tradition to honor fallen comrades.
Gavulic is survived by his wife, Alyssa, and their six children Rylie, Tristyn, Austyn, Suttyn, Evylie and Lylah, who has since passed.