Snapped awake by the sound of belt-fed machine gun fire, then-Senior Airman Alaxey Germanovich, a 26th Special Tactics Squadron combat controller, surveys the compound he had dozed off in after several sleepless days of combat.
“I look around and I don’t see any of my American teammates,” Germanovich said. “(At that moment I said to myself) I need to find my friends right now.”
Grabbing his helmet and rifle, Germanovich bolted out of the compound and into the fight, where he saw several of the Army special forces Soldiers he was embedded with huddling for cover from behind a small rock.
“I knew then that I had to go get to my teammates and help them,” he said.
Germanovich’s base instinct would quickly turn into a grueling battle for survival, but it was those selfless impulses to save and protect his teammates that proved to be the difference between life and death for many of his teammates on that fateful day.
SecAF commends combat controller for valor
Germanovich was awarded the medal, second only to the Medal of Honor, for his actions April 8, 2017, during combat operations against enemy forces in Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan.
“This Air Force Cross is a tribute to your persistence (Staff Sgt. Germanovich),” Barrett said. “You risked your life and weathered blistering enemy fire to save the lives of others.”
In attendance were Col. Matthew Allen, 24th Special Operations Wing commander, the 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) team Germanovich was attached to during the combat operations, and Germanovich’s family and friends.
Following the ceremony, Germanovich led those in attendance in memorial pushups to commemorate the event, the firefight and the ultimate sacrifice paid during the clash by Army Staff Sgt. Mark De Alencar, a special forces Soldier assigned to 7th SFG (A) and a member of the team Germanovich was assigned to.
“This battle was a case study in toughness and extraordinary competence,” Allen said. “But it was also a case study in love. The type of love that demands teammates fight for one another and give everything they have.”
Germanovich’s actions as the air-to-ground liaison for his special operations forces team were credited with protecting the lives of more than 150 friendly forces and the lethal engagement of 11 separate fighting positions.
Facing hell, calling for fire
A native of Boiling Springs, South Carolina, Germanovich enlisted into the Air Force in November, 2012, with two goals in mind.
“I always knew I wanted a challenge,” Germanovich said. “I wanted to have a direct impact on the battlefield wherever I went.”
Five years later, both of those wishes would be granted when he deployed to Afghanistan and embedded with 7 SFG (A) Soldiers and their Afghan partners.
During his tour, the joint force was tasked with clearing several valleys in Nangarhar of fighters. As the multi-day operation progressed and the coalition forces pushed the insurgents closer to the Afghan border of Pakistan, the fighting became more and more violent. It reached a head as Germanovich sprinted through heavy enemy fire to help the Special Forces Soldiers on that fateful day.
After reaching the rock his teammates were pinned down behind, Germanovich began to call in airstrikes to try and suppress the attack.
“It was working to a degree,” Germanovich said. “But we were still receiving extremely effective fire, and one of our partner force members had gotten shot.”
To evacuate the wounded Afghan commando, Germanovich began to call for strikes extremely close to their position in order to create more separation between the coalition forces and the insurgents.
“As the bombs were falling out of the sky, I started screaming at everybody to run for cover,” Germanovich said.
After the partner force member was evacuated, the special operations forces team launched their counter-attack. A separate unit from across the valley was able to pinpoint a key enemy bunker during the firefight, and Germanovich’s element, led by De Alencar, crawled their way towards the position.
Once the fire team reached the top of the bunker, Germanovich and De Alencar dropped grenades into its entrance. Then, as Germanovich secured the opening and De Alencar and the other Special Forces Soldiers began to breach the bunker, insurgents ambushed the team from hidden positions to the south, mortally wounding De Alencar.
“The situation just became complete and utter chaos,” Germanovich said. “The team and I had expended all of our ordnance engaging enemy targets. We expended all of our grenades, there was no more pistol ammunition, and we were out of ammo completely.”
Lying prone with no cover from the attack, Germanovich put out a call to an AC-130W Stinger II gunship aircraft that was leaving the area in order to refuel.
“As they were leaving, I said ‘if you don’t come back, we’re dead.'” Germanovich said.
The gunship did return and began to fire on the enemy fighters, which gave Germanovich and the soldiers the opportunity to move away and evacuate De Alencar.
“All the while, we’re still taking effective fire from the enemy,” Germanovich said. “We began dropping ordnance and basically bombing up this mountainside until we got to safety.”
Germanovich’s actions proved decisive on that battlefield and demonstrated the enormous impact of Air Force Special Operation Command‘s precision strike mission, which provides ground force with specialized capabilities to find, assess and engage targets.
“You (Germanovich) told me earlier that you did what any one of your teammates would have done in the same situation,” Allen said. “But we don’t know that. We do know what you did that day: face and devastate a numerically superior enemy … this is why America’s enemies do not take us head on.”
Germanovich’s ability to enable precision strike operations and his bravery in the face of hostile fire are incredibly courageous in their own right, but it was the reason behind his valiant performance that makes him an unquestionable hero.
“It was 100% my teammates,” Germanovich said. “If I’m in danger, I know without a doubt in my mind that my teammates are going to do everything in their power to make sure that I come back, and I would do everything that I could possibly do to make sure that they come back.”