U.S. Air Force JTAC Who Directed Danger-Close Airstrikes in ‘Ferocious Firefight’ to Receive Medal

The U.S. Air Force will award a special tactics combat controller the second-highest military award for calling in danger-close gunship airstrikes while under siege in Afghanistan.

Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett will present Staff Sgt. Alaxey Germanovich, of the 26th Special Tactics Squadron, Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico, the Air Force Cross for his actions in Nangarhar Province in 2017. The ceremony will take place on Dec. 10, Air Force Special Operations Command announced Friday.

Germanovich, serving as a Joint Terminal Attack Controller under Combined Joint Special Operations Air Component-Afghanistan, was on a mission April 8, 2017, to clear and recoup territory from enemy combatants alongside a team of  Army Special Forces and Afghan commandos, according to his award citation.

The mission took 17 days. On many of those days, American and Afghan forces faced “close combat with enemy forces” and required close air support and medical evacuations, the citation reads.

21st STS JTACs CAS training mission at Nevada Test and Training Range2
U.S. Air Force Combat Control JTACs from the 21st Special Tactics Squadron call for close air support from an A-10 Thunderbolt II while attending the Air Force's JTAC Advanced Instructor Course.

On April 8, Germanovich and the special forces teams found themselves locked in a ferocious firefight and taking a barrage of machine gun and sniper fire that allowed insurgent forces to close in on their location. During the hours-long battle, Germanovich sprinted hundreds of feet into the open toward his isolated teammates to direct multiple aircraft strafing runs, according to the citation. Some 500-pound and 2,000-pound bombs struck as close as 300 feet from his position, the service said.

After one team member, Army Staff Sgt Mark De Alencar, was killed in the action, Germanovich moved to place himself between the attacking enemy and his team in order to “protect them with his body and employ his own suppressive fires,” the citation states.

With their ammunition dwindling, some members drew their sidearm pistols instead to fight back. Germanovich, meanwhile, directed close air support from an AC-130 gunship as close as 100 feet from their location. During the eight-hour attack, the special tactics airman also coordinated medical evacuation helicopters “to extract the wounded and helped carry a soldier uphill to a landing zone as he continued to call for close air support.”

More than 150 friendly forces made it out that day because of Germanovich’s actions, the Air Force said.

“Through his extraordinary heroism, superb airmanship, and aggressiveness in the face of the enemy, Airman Germanovich reflected the highest credit upon himself and the United States Air Force,” his citation reads.

The award makes Germanovich the 12th special tactics airman to receive the Air Force Cross since 9/11, the Air Force said.

The special tactics community collectively has received one Medal of Honor, 12 Air Force Crosses and 50 Silver Star Medals over the last two decades.

— Oriana Pawlyk

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