A True American Patriot. MSGT Josh Gavulic, 1979 – 2014.
Gone but never forgotten.
On 21 Feb 2014, Master Sergeant Josh “Gav” Gavulic (operationally known as GC) was killed during military free fall training in Eloy, Arizona. Josh followed in his father’s footsteps when he joined the United States Air Force, and blazed the way for his younger brother who ultimately joined the same career-field as Josh, Tactical Air Control Party (TACP). Gav left behind a phenomenal wife, Alyssa, and his six beautiful children, Rylie 15, Tristyn 12, Austyn 7, Suttyn 6, Evylie 3, and Lylah 15 Months.
Josh entered service in 1998, and after a few short years, was assigned to Fort Hood, TX. While there, Josh attained his Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) qualification. This JTAC qualification, coupled with his accomplishment of an arduous pre-selection package, made Josh eligible to volunteer, and subsequently be selected, for the elite 17th Air Support Operations Squadron (ASOS) – now known as the 17th Special Tactics Squadron (STS). The 17th STS provides JTAC support for the 75th Ranger Regiment at Fort Benning, GA.
During his time with the Rangers, Josh served with Alpha Company, 3rd Ranger Battalion and the exclusive Regimental Reconnaissance Company, while also filling the position of the Squadron Operations Superintendent, where he managed combat mission ready theater employment for Special Operations TACP and combat mission support members within the 17th STS separated across 3 geographic locations. As a Special Operations TACP, Josh expertly massed close air support and artillery fires on the enemy, while engaging others in close proximity with his personal weapon. Gav deployed 10 times in support of OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM, and OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM; he accumulated nearly 4 years in country, during which he was accredited with participating in 150 operations leading to 50 Enemy Killed in Action (EKIA), and more than 80 enemy captured, including several national level high-value targets. From those missions, he was awarded more than 26 medals, including three Bronze Star medals, two Joint Service Commendation Medals with Valor, two Air Force Commendation Medals and an Army Commendation Medal.
Gav’s lethality on the battle field was honed through his self-sought training in advanced combatives, shooting, driving, parachuting and survival schools. Gav also attended static line jumpmaster, military free fall jumpmaster, pathfinder, ranger, and demolitions schools. Yet Josh’s military record is a distant second compared to his devotion and adoration for his wife of 15 years and their 6 children; if medals were awarded for husbandry and fatherhood, he would have had a bigger rack than General MacArthur.
Gav was simply cool. Whether working on his 1964 Riviera, showing off the engine in his 1965 Stepside, or riding his Harley in his motorcycle club, he was always surrounded by his family or brothers. Josh was never alone, because he was always selflessly doing things for other people. He was a fun and loving husband, known to extensively renovate his house if Alyssa nonchalantly mentioned a needed improvement, who spontaneously found ways to romance her long after the comfort of familiarity had embraced their marriage, and cleverly devised ways to make her laugh when she was taking life too seriously.
If you spent any time with Josh and Alyssa, you knew that they were madly in love; the sort of love we all dream and aspire for. Gav was also the hippest dad; his confidence, cleverness, and sense of humor made every household moment exciting, and his unique personality is perpetuated in all of his children. Whether Josh was bluntly informing his teenage daughter about the way teenage boys think, or teaching his sons how to battle with verbal wit instead of fists, he was always mentoring them in some way.
GC was sly; and maybe the only man who could outsmart his own children – he recently infiltrated his daughter’s school on the night of her homecoming dance, under the pretext of merely providing the transportation. Upon commencement of the dance, Gav “inserted” into the gymnasium, pulled over watch on his daughter, and eliminated the boy-age threats by taking center stage and embarrassing her (but no doubt impressing the rest of the crowd) with his awesome signature break dance moves – the very same moves that he used to win over his wife’s heart when they were just teenagers themselves.
The Gavulic family is one-of-a-kind; notorious for throwing the best theme parties and mega 4th of July celebrations; and Josh did it right. You could count on a pig roasting, gun shooting, fire cracking, belly flop contest kind of night, where Josh would let his kids stay up late and hang around his team mates until Alyssa called “knock-it-off”. Josh loved the outdoors, playing guitar and drums, tattoos, guns, home renovations, motorcycles, and classic cars. Yet, these things always came after rolling around on the floor wrestling with his sons, twirling his little girls around in a quick dance, or making his wife feel like she was the most amazing woman he had ever laid eyes on.
Josh was a great leader. He spoke his mind and made things happen. He was known to take shots at his Squadron Commander and Superintendent to make sure they were listening. Beginning his statements “with all due respect,” Gav often left his leadership wondering if they had heard him right. He pushed his men to be the best; he was an empathetic listener but as hard as Gunny Highway. He took the time to know his troops, know their families, and know their issues. His men loved him and wanted to make him proud, although even their greatest efforts were often acknowledged with a simple “so-what,” not because he was unimpressed, but because he was confident that his family and friends would accomplish their goals. Gav was a level-headed and humble Senior Non Commissioned Officer, and was not afraid to get his hands dirty. In fact, as an E-5 in ranger school, Josh convinced his instructors to cease all training, and turn their backs while he “tactfully resolved” the platoon chow thief issue, after having his beef enchiladas stolen.
If you had the pleasure of sharing your life with GC, you were at some point a student of his, as there was always something to learn. He taught his daughters what they should look for in a man, how a woman should be treated, and that they were too valuable to accept anything less. He taught his sons how to behave as strong Godly men and how to be an example for others when going with the crowd would be easier. He assisted his wife in learning to trust God, and how to love unconditionally. He exemplified to his leaders, peers, and subordinates how to be transparent, straightforward, and trustworthy. He illustrated to his church what true conviction and unbridled faith looks like. He demonstrated to all of us how to keep it together when times get tough.
Gav’s friends, co-workers and even people who never met him banded together immediately following Josh’s tragic accident in an impressive display of support for his family. This man made a positive impact on so many lives while he was on this earth, and will continue to do so in his memories. He will not be forgotten.
To assist Gav’s family, please donate to the “Gav Fund” here: https://fundly.com/the-gav-fund.
Story by: LE, close friend and teammate.