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DOD utilizes 3D-printing to Create N95 Respirators in the Battle Against COVID-19

Thursday, January 14th, 2021

In response to the COVID-19 global pandemic, the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Development Activity’s Warfighter Expeditionary Medicine and Treatment Project Management Office, as part of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command’s Additive Manufacturing Working Group, has played an integral role in the ramped-up effort to produce N95 respirators for healthcare and frontline workers across the nation. As stated on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s website, an N95 respirator is “a respiratory protective device designed to achieve a very close facial fit and very efficient filtration of airborne particles.” Compared to a surgical mask, which is loose-fitting, the edges of the N95 mask are designed to form a very tight seal around the individual’s nose and mouth, providing the highest levels of protection against infection from COVID-19.

U.S. Air Force Maj. Daniel Williams serves as product manager of the WEMT PMO’s N95 respirator efforts at USAMMDA. These include coordinating programmatic and regulatory support, leveraging existing government resources, and developing synergies within the Department of Defense’s organic industrial base to successfully generate N95 respirator products. He explained that his primary task is to ensure the medical device meets military needs and regulatory requirements, and that development of the product remains on schedule and within budget.

In a recent interview, Williams offered a great deal of insight with regard to USAMMDA’s N95 respirator efforts, and the work to produce and distribute these products as quickly as possible in the battle against the spread of COVID-19 throughout our nation and the world.

JS: As product manager within the WEMT PMO, please describe your responsibilities in regard to the N95 respirator effort.

DW: The N95 effort is a slightly atypical experience, in that we are primarily working with DOD partners who have never manufactured medical devices. However, they have extensive experience in various methods of manufacturing, including additive manufacturing, also known as three-dimensional, or 3D, printing. So, our primary responsibility is assisting these DOD manufacturers in navigating the medical device world, including compliance with U.S. Food and Drug Administration and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health regulations. Further, we facilitate test and evaluation of their products, by leveraging DOD laboratories and government partners to obtain performance feedback on respirator prototypes.

JS: Please describe the features of the N95 respirator, and why this device is superior to others currently on the market. What is its significance, especially with regard to COVID?

DW: It’s not so much superiority, as it is availability. One of the highest levels of respiratory protection for medical purposes, to include viral infection, is a NIOSH-certified N95 respirator. These come in multiple forms, but all are held to the same standard of filtering at least 95 percent of relevant particles, such as the Sudden Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus-2 virus. Most people are familiar with what is called an FFR, or a Filtering Facepiece Respirator. These are the standard disposable, one-time-use products typically worn by our healthcare workers. However, at this time, these types of masks are nearly impossible to 3D-print. Our group has been working on what is called an elastomeric half-mask respirator, which is a reusable frame produced by a 3D printer, with a disposable media or cartridge that filters at the 95-percent level.

When the pandemic hit, the on-hand supply of N95 respirators, specifically FFRs, was quickly exhausted and traditional N95 manufacturers were not prepared to meet this new demand. Therefore, the primary purpose of the N95 working group is to develop N95 respirators to supplement existing supplies of respirators, as well as to develop new manufacturing capabilities within the DOD’s organic industrial base, which consists of military arsenals, maintenance depots and ammunition factories. Ensuring the DOD has the capability to independently manufacture protective respiratory devices will help to protect frontline workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, and it will also help to maintain our military readiness in the face of future pandemics or biothreats.

JS: Please detail the current status of the N95 program, and explain what lies ahead.

DW: Currently, we’ve partnered with multiple organizations across the DOD including the Army, Navy, Coast Guard, and the Defense Logistics Agency to support N95 respirator design, manufacturing and distribution through existing logistics. To date, we’ve facilitated testing of 18 iterations of respirator design, and two have successfully passed preliminary evaluation at the Army’s Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Chemical Biological Center. Our next steps will be to assist these manufacturers with the NIOSH application and process, to obtain an N95 certification for these respirators. Further, we are continuously seeking new partners within the DOD who have N95-related efforts, so that we may be able to assist.

The COVID-19 pandemic has clearly illustrated that civilian medical supply chains were unprepared to rapidly scale-up production of critical medical supplies such as medical personal protective equipment, including N95 respirators. Although this crisis will end, the next one could come along at any time. Additionally, the impact of critical medical supply shortages on military readiness could occur again in future battlefields from natural pandemics or biothreat agents. By continuing to focus on producing medical devices within the DOD organic industrial base, we can translate the lessons we’ve learned with medical PPE shortages into better preparedness for the next medical crisis, as well as for future conflicts in a Multi-Domain Operational environment.

JS: Why was the WEMT PMO tasked with the N95 respirator effort?

DW: The WEMT PMO’s everyday mission is to develop and deliver medical devices to our Service partners in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, our program office was able to naturally pivot and leverage our staff’s medical product development expertise and apply it to the crisis at hand. This is truly what project managers do – we find creative ways to deliver effective, suitable and timely medical solutions when and where they are needed most.

JS: Please list the other members of the N95 respirator program team, and detail their responsibilities in the overall effort.

DW: The team has been phenomenal and is comprised of many professionals. However, the N95 program is actually a subgroup of the USAMRDC’s Additive Manufacturing Working Group, and nothing could have been accomplished without its assistance and guidance. The AMWG oversees three specific product lines: diagnostic swabs, ventilator parts and accessories, and the N95 respirator. As the lead for the N95 line of effort, I was tasked with outlining FDA and NIOSH requirements, initiating agreements between organizations, and leading an N95 working group to facilitate collaboration amongst all of our partners.

The N95 team specifically, can really be split into three different components, and we’d be nowhere without the ongoing collaborative effort from each component. First are our manufacturing partners, the U.S. Navy Underwater Warfare Center-Keyport, U.S. Forces Korea, Defense Logistics Agency, and the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. These organizations have the technical and subject matter expertise to not only design an N95 respirator, but actually to produce it through additive manufacturing methods.

Second is our AMWG team members at USAMRDC, comprised of the Office of Regulated Activities, Office of the Principal Assistant for Acquisition, Legal office, and USAMMDA’s Office of Research and Technology Applications and the WEMT PMO. The USAMRDC ensures all regulatory requirements for the respirator have been met, appropriate agreements are in place between organizations, and that any concerns with patents or intellectual property on the respirator designs have been addressed. It also provides clinical expertise on potential products, and facilitates test and evaluation of N95 respirator prototypes.

Last, but certainly not least, is the Army’s Combat Capabilities Development Command Chemical Biological Center. The CCDC CBC has been evaluating all forms of respirators for decades, and has an unparalleled knowledge of respirator design and evaluation. Once our manufacturing partners have produced a prototype, it is sent to CCDC CBC for evaluation, to determine whether it will meet the NIOSH standards for an N95 respirator. The CCDC CBC has been critical in providing performance feedback and offering design suggestions for our manufacturers, allowing iterative prototyping to expedite development of respirators.

JS: Other than for the current pandemic, what are some other (future) uses of the N95 mask?

DW: The N95 was thrust into the spotlight as COVID-19 is an airborne respiratory illness. However, the N95 respirator has long been used as medical PPE to prevent against other airborne illnesses, as well as in industrial settings to protect workers against airborne environmental toxins. Therefore, even when the COVID-19 pandemic ends, the N95 respirator will still be a much-needed product in these types of situations.

JS: Is there anything else you would like to say regarding the N95 working group?

DW: Tireless effort is put in on a daily basis, from N95 working group members internal and external to USAMMDA and USAMRDC, USAMMDA’s higher headquarters. It has been such an honor to work with such an amazing group of professionals, spanning the medical and non-medical communities, and a truly unique experience to see so many different specialties come together for a common goal. I am extremely grateful to have been a part of it, and I would like to say a sincere “Thank you” to everyone involved!

USAMMDA is a subordinate command of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command, under the Army Futures Command. As the premier developer of world-class military medical capabilities, USAMMDA is responsible for developing and delivering critical products designed to protect and preserve the lives of Warfighters across the globe. These products include drugs, vaccines, biologics, devices and medical support equipment intended to maximize survival of casualties on the battlefield.

All Byte, No Bark for Air Force Security Forces’ ‘Robotic K-9’

Wednesday, January 13th, 2021

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. (AFNS) —

As a part of its one-year pilot program, the Ghost Robotics Vision 60 visited Scott Air Force Base during an evaluation of the robot’s capabilities.

Heading the test was Air Combat Command’s Agile Battle Lab. The lab identifies, validates and inserts new concepts and technology to enable Agile Combat Employment and its contributions to all-domain warfare.

The Vision 60 autonomous quadrupedal unmanned ground vehicle is an all-terrain, dog-like robot equipped with enhanced sensors.

“By no means is this meant to replace a real K-9,” said Senior Master Sgt. Marcos Garcia, ACC Detachment 3 Agile Battle Lab, AMC liaison. “It is simply a force multiplier and can even maybe save some K-9 lives. The experts in the field envision it supplementing a bomb team or leading a foot patrol.”

This innovative piece of machinery was created to be a low-cost, low-risk force multiplier. Ultimately, this program has the capability of protecting a life.

“The major selling point of this technology is that it’s meant to be expendable, whereas our Airmen are not,” said Master Sgt. Justin Hanlon, 375th Security Forces Squadron operations noncommissioned officer in charge. “We can replace parts on the ghost robot and get it back out to the mission, but the same cannot be said of a human being. The bottom line is this cements our commitment to mitigating risk to our Airmen and protecting them from unnecessary danger.”

Equipped with integrated sensors, the Q-UGV can capture a high-definition video stream and thermal imaging, and boasts an infrared configuration. The Q-UGV also utilizes legs that can attain a current speed of seven feet per second and has been tested to outperform wheels, tracks and drones for certain uses in the field.

“Instead of using a human being as a sentry, imagine a mobile sensor with a high-definition, wide-angle camera and long-range capabilities being controlled by a trained Airman from the safety and security of a Base Defense Operations Center or a Theatre Operations Center in both a garrison or contested environment,” Hanlon said.

During the evaluation at Scott AFB, the ABL sought the insight of force professionals on improvements to the robotic K-9.

“We are a team of motivated innovators and know we have many talented Airmen with great ideas,” Garcia said. “We want to harvest those great ideas and bring them to fruition so we can bring our Air Force into the future.”

While the implementation of this technology is still in its infancy, it has the latent ability to bring the Air Force into a new era of warfighting.

“The ghost robot has potential to aid the enterprise in getting away from the past where we had Airmen walk wingtip to wingtip on flying assets,” Hanlon said. “We can employ our manpower smarter and more efficiently and this may be a small step to that competency.”

As the Air Force looks to close gaps and move towards Agile Combat Employment and Joint All Domain Command and Control, the use of new innovative technology like the Q-UGV may become common across military installations as we seek to enhance mission effectiveness.

By Airman 1st Class Shannon Moorehead, 375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

Newly-Acquired Air Force Research Lab Test Aircraft to Aid Personnel Recovery Research

Monday, January 11th, 2021

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio (AFNS) —

A small aircraft that is poised to make a big impact on military personnel recovery made a brief stop in the Dayton area on its way to St. Mary’s County, Maryland, where it will be used to test the Air Force Research Laboratory-developed Low Altitude Sensing Helmet system.

The CubCrafters XCub aircraft was ferried from Yakima, Washington, to Lewis A. Jackson Regional Airport near Dayton, on its journey to the AFRL 711th Human Performance Wing’s contracted research flight test organization facility, Dec. 21. The aircraft was recently purchased by AFRL to advance the initial “Lysander” flying experiment, which will demonstrate the Low Altitude Sensing Helmet system, known as LASH.

LASH, a portable kit developed within the AFRL 711th Human Performance Wing’s Airman Systems Directorate, contains specialized equipment including a flight helmet, a thermal camera, night vision goggles and various other components. The kit can quickly and easily be installed onto nearly any general aviation aircraft to equip pilots for low-level, low-speed, nighttime flight – something that is essential for personnel recovery and other “featherweight airlift” special missions, according to Dr. Darrel G. Hopper, 711th Human Performance Wing project lead.

“The Air Force’s CODE (Combat Operations in Denied Environment) program determined that these types of missions could not be executed effectively by the large aircraft that we have been using over the last 20 years in areas where we have air dominance,” Hopper said. “Project Lysander was conceived as a method of rescuing isolated personnel in both heavily defended and undefended airspace. A critical element of the project was determined to be a carry-on kit that could allow such operations.” He explained that the LASH system kit was designed to fill this need and provide pilots with sensory situational awareness required to fly safely, at night, at extremely low altitudes and slow airspeeds.

Hopper explained that LASH came about after the Air Combat Command and the Air Force Strategic Development Planning and Experimentation office at AFRL asked the 711th Human Performance Wing’s Airman Systems Directorate to lead this research effort.

“They called on us based on our expertise in this type of work,” Hopper explained. “Our directorate has decades of experience in researching, developing and fielding helmet- and cockpit-mounted displays and other wearable vision aids for combat pilots, aircrews and special operations warriors.”

After careful study of mission requirements and aircraft capabilities, AFRL researchers designed the LASH kit using a number of mostly commercial-off-the-shelf components. The kit was packaged into a compact, easy-to-transport, one-person carrying system that could be easily fitted temporarily to virtually any small aircraft without additional modification.

Hopper said the CubCrafters XCub was identified by ACC as the safest and most capable commercial-off-the-shelf aircraft for the initial flying experiment to test the LASH System kit.

“If we can demonstrate that the XCub can be flown safely at night at low speed and low altitude using the LASH night vision aids, then we can expand LASH system kit use to other types of short takeoff and landing general aviation aircraft.”

After the aircraft reaches the flight test organization in Maryland, it will first be used to fit-test the LASH system. AFRL researchers and contractor partners will next refine the installation and de-installation process as well as baseline-test metrics, and develop the associated test cards, while flying without the kit. The first flights with the LASH system are scheduled for early spring 2021. If flight tests are successful and program objectives are achieved, the LASH system could be on track for technology transfer and possible deployment as early as 2022.

“This system offers the potential to greatly expand our capability to perform necessary personnel recovery and related missions,” Hopper said. “The acquisition and delivery of this test vehicle is a critical milestone in getting the LASH technology and featherweight airlift capability into the hands of the warfighter.”

Hopper added that after the XCub test aircraft has completed its role in this project, AFRL will be able to use it as a test asset for future research projects as well.

Story by Holly Jordan, Air Force Research Laboratory

Photos by by Richard Eldridge

First There…That Others May Live: Special Tactics History

Sunday, January 10th, 2021

Department of the Air Force Directs Commanders to Review Unit Emblems, Mottos, Nicknames, Other Official Symbology

Wednesday, January 6th, 2021

WASHINGTON (AFNS) —

The Department of the Air Force directed commanders to conduct a comprehensive review of official and unofficial unit emblems, morale patches, mottos, nicknames, coins and other forms of unit recognition and identity to ensure an inclusive and professional environment within 60 days from Dec. 23, 2020.

Commanders, at the squadron level and above, will remove any visual representation, symbols or language derogatory to any race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion, age or disability status to ensure an inclusive and professional environment.

The directive came in the form of a memorandum from Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett, Air Force Chief of Staff Charles Q. Brown, Jr., and Chief of Space Operations John W. Raymond.

“It is critical for the Department of the Air Force to embody an environment of dignity, respect and inclusivity for all Airmen and Guardians,” the memo stated. “Our core values demand we hold ourselves to high standards and maintain a culture of respect and trust in our chain of command.”

According to Air Force Instruction 84-105, “Organizational Lineage, Honors and Heraldry,” emblem designs and mottos should reflect favorably on the United States Air Force, be original, distinctive, dignified, in good taste and non-controversial.

“Their continued use (of derogatory symbols and language) ostracizes our teammates undermining unit cohesion and impeding our mission readiness and success … Our diversity of experience, culture, demographics and perspectives is a force multiplier and essential to our success in this dynamic global environment … We must ensure all our Airmen and Guardians are valued and respected,” the memo emphasized.

Commanders should consider emblem and motto guidance in AFI 84-105 and consult their historians, staff judge advocates and equal opportunity specialists during the review.

Always Ready: 86th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron Executes Negatively Pressurized Conex-Lite Training Mission

Tuesday, January 5th, 2021

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany (AFNS) —

The 86th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron held a COVID-19 patient movement training using the Negatively Pressurized Conex-Lite at Ramstein Air Base, Dec. 14-18.

The week-long training ended with a proof-of-concept flight on a C-130J Super Hercules, solidifying the entire process of U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa COVID-19 patient transfer capabilities for the 86th Airlift Wing.

“It was the first time an NPC-L has taken off, at least in U.S. European Command, having a training mission on it, all the assets, and coordinating the integration from the ground piece to the in-flight piece,” said Capt. JD Pilger, 86th AES training flight commander. “Previously, everything was done on the ground, so this is a big deal. The capstone for the week was getting this thing airborne and proving this concept and capability for EUCOM.”

Operations such as these are historically placed within the Air Mobility Command, specifically at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina. The initial force training was only conducted there for the entire Air Force, which would then piece together teams and send on deployments to provide this capability operationally.

In July, however, AMC started a flagship initiative to send certified trainers to Ramstein AB to certify 86th Medical Group and 86th AES personnel to be the initial cadre on the NPC-L. This established an organic capability located overseas, therefore widening the pool of certified personnel to the force, said Maj. Josh Williams, 86th AES operations flight commander.

From the 721st Aerial Port Squadron, loading the NPC-L onto the aircraft to the 86th MDG and 86th AES infectious disease team ensuring proper personal protective equipment was worn during each scenario, multiple units were called upon to contribute to the training.

“The training was for developing another force package for the 86th AW, to enable us to move COVID-positive patients utilizing the NPC-L,” Pilger said. “The force package entails members from the 86th MDG, the 86th AES and additional folks over at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, such as our Critical Care Air Transport Team.”

The NPC-L is a smaller version of the Negatively Pressurized Conex, an isolated containment chamber intended to transport individuals with infectious diseases like COVID-19. While the NPC is used on C-17 Globemaster III, the NPC-L was developed for use on a C-130J.

“Pursuant to a U.S. Transportation Command joint urgent operational need request, (the NPC) was fielded, and the follow on to that was the NPC-L,” Williams said. “That is what we’ve now developed our teams and force packages within the 86th AW to support. (The NPC) is actually loadable on a C-130 and can transport patients in EUCOM, as well as U.S. Africa Command.”

Up to nine ambulatory patients, four litter patients, two CCATT critical care patients, or variations thereof, can be transported in the NPC-L.

During the training, Airmen were presented with various patient-transfer scenarios and worked together to execute the mission both on the ground and in the air.

“It was a true team sport throughout the whole thing,” said Capt. Zachary Gooch, 86th AES operations support flight commander. “We could not have done it without the support from Air Terminal Operations Center, maintenance or the medical group.”

Having this organic capability enables Ramstein to provide COVID-19 patient movement overseas without the need for assets deployed from AMC.

“I think we proved that this can be done without having a deployed asset that rolls in and sets up shop,” Gooch said. “We did it, basically, from grassroots.”

By SrA John R. Wright, 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

USAF Issues New Physical Fitness Program Manual Which Includes Waist Measurement, Four Days After Eliminating Waist Measurement From Assessment

Monday, January 4th, 2021

Nothing could be more 2020 than the Air Force publishing a new version of AF Manual 36-2905 “Air Force Physical Fitness Program” on 11 December with a four component test, just four days after fundamentally changing the program by issuing guidance to eliminate the waist measurement component.

The test will still consist of a 1.5 mile run, 1 minute of pushups and 1 minute of situps. However, the composite score will be calculated with full points for the waist measurement portion until system changes can be made.

On the upside, the AFMAN is only 77 pages instead of the 147 pages in the old Air Force Instruction issued in 2013. Hopefully, it won’t take another seven years to update the latest, outdated guidance.

‘A Tribute to Persistence:’ SecAF Presents Air Force Cross to Special Tactics Airman

Monday, January 4th, 2021

CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. (AFNS) —

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

Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett presented the Air Force Cross to now-Staff Sgt. Germanovich during a ceremony at Cannon Air Force Base Dec. 10.

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.”

Article by SrA Maxwell Daigle, 27th Special Operations Wing Public Affairs

Photos by SSgt Michael Washburn and A1C Drew Cyburt