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A decorated special tactics airman who survived 10 deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan was killed in a parachute training accident in Eloy, Ariz., on Friday, the Air Force announced.
Master Sgt. Josh Gavulic, a tactical air control party member assigned to the 17th Special Tactics Squadron at Fort Benning, Ga., leaves behind a wife and six children, according to an Air Force news release.
“Joshua was 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,” Lt. Col John Traxler, 17th Special Tactics Squadron commander, said in a statement. “We talked frequently of the responsibilities we hold as husbands and fathers. Those were the roles he held most dear. I loved him for that, and he personified qualities that I strive for.”
During his 16 years in the Air Force, Gavulic earned three Bronze Star medals, two Joint Service Commendation Medals with Valor, two Air Force Commendation Medals and an Army Commendation Medal.
Gavulic conducted joint special operations and was trained in multiple types of infiltration techniques, including parachute operations, according to the news release. Friday’s accident, which is under investigation, occurred during free fall proficiency training, a type of parachuting that requires the user to pull his or her own parachute.
Free fall allows a parachutist to control where he or she lands, which is important when trying to infiltrate an area undetected, said Maj. Craig Savage, an Air Force Special Tactics spokesman.
Gavulic, who was also a special tactics operator and Ranger, was a qualified jumpmaster, the Air Force said.
As a TACP, Gavulic expertly planned and controlled air combat resources for joint operations. He also operated and supervised communications networks to support ground maneuver elements, according to the release.
He was driven by his desire to serve God, his family and his country, Traxler said in his statement. “The 17th Special Tactics community should be focused on the wealth of things that he taught us through his work, his home life, and his actions: living our lives in a manner worthy of his legacy and his values.”