Air Force Staff Sgt. Alaxey Germanovich was awarded the Air Force Cross Thursday for his actions during a “ferocious firefight” in Afghanistan in April 2017 — including exposing himself to enemy fire on numerous occasions, coordinating close air support and facilitating a medical evacuation for the wounded.
Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett said Germanovich earned the award for his “raw bravery, his courage, and his unfaltering resolve under fire” during the award ceremony at Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico, where Germanovich is now stationed.
Col. Matthew Allen, commander of the 24th Special Operations Wing, credited Germanovich’s actions with turning “the tide of a vicious battle” and saving the lives of teammates.
“This battle was a case study in toughness and extraordinary competence,” Allen said during the ceremony. “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 for one another. The type of love that burdens you with the feeling of responsibility for your teammates when they are in harm’s way and you need to act.”
Germanovich, a combat controller with the 26th Special Tactics Squadron, was attached to a team of Army special forces and Afghan commandos who were on a mission to clear a valley of 450 ISIS fighters in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province, according to Barrett.
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Barrett said that although the mission was expected to last only a week, that turned into a total of 17 days.
U.S. and partner forces were ambushed by the enemy on April 8, 2017, as they came under “intense machine gun and sniper fire,” resulting in a “ferocious firefight,” according to the award citation.
“Without hesitation, [Germanovich] deliberately placed himself in grave danger by sprinting toward his isolated teammates, traversing 70 meters of open terrain and a fusillade of machine gun fire,” the citation says.
“He directed multiple strafing runs, with 500-pound and 2,000-pound bomb strikes as close as 90 meters from his position.”
Furthermore, Germanovich covered friendly forces with his own body to protect them from enemy fire after a member of his team, Army Staff Sgt. Mark De Alencar, was shot and fatally injured.
“In demonstrating the strongest bonds of military members that they can share, Senior Airman Germanovich used his body to protect team members, including one who was mortally wounded,” Barrett said, referring to Germanovich by his rank at the time. “Still, he fought on.”
As his team was running out of ammo, Germanovich directed his team’s withdrawal and coordinated a medical evacuation, carrying De Alencar 700 meters uphill to the landing zone, all the while continuing to call in close air support.
Germanovich’s actions led to the protection of over 150 friendly forces and the lethal engagement of 11 separate fighting positions, according to his citation. Those actions “are a reminder that our character is not revealed when times are easy, but when times are tough,” Allen said.
After the award ceremony, Germanovich and others performed push ups to commemorate April 8, 2017, and honor De Alencar, known as “D,” who gave his life that day.
“You reflexively just want to protect your teammates,” Germanovich said in an Air Force video. “Like, you don’t care about anything else. It’s not to say that I was a braver guy than everybody else. Not a chance. Every single one of those guys on that hill that day would have done everything in their power to do anything they could to help the next guy. And I think that’s what makes special operations so special, is that every guy that was selected, he’s there for the team. I think that’s what makes you so effective.”
“D paid the ultimate price,” Germanovich said. “I got to walk away … I got lucky, I don’t know. All I did was my job, and he did his job.”
Germanovich, who joined the Air Force in 2012, is the 12th special tactics airman to earn the Air Force Cross since the 9/11 terror attacks. The valor award is second only to the Medal of Honor.