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82d TRW | Continuing the Legacy

  • Published
  • By Matthew McGovern

One hour after graduating Air Force Basic Military Training, a young Airman catches a glimpse of his freshly pressed blues reflecting off the glass of his father’s memorial display case.

Inside 16th Air Force Headquarters, Airman 1st Class Andrew “Andy” Garshasb looked at his father’s flight suit, remembering him wearing it for breakfast, while sipping coffee at daybreak, before lacing up his boots and heading off for work.  

Now, the flight suit adorns a mannequin next to his flight helmet with a description of his father’s heroism.

Navid Garshasb then Tech. Sgt. Navid Garshasb, an airborne cryptologic language analyst from the 25th Intelligence Squadron, was aboard an MH-53 Pave Low helicopter that crashed after a radar malfunction in the hills of Afghanistan, Nov. 2, 2001.

Navid Garshasb sustained a broken spine, ribs, and a dislocated shoulder; several other flight crew members suffered injuries as well. Nevertheless, despite his wounds, he checked on each crew member and assessed their injuries.   

Then, about 15 native—and potentially hostile—forces approached the crash site. At the same time, U.S. fighter aircraft approached the scene, ready to engage. Navid dropped his weapon and used his skill as an airborne linguist to defuse the situation, preventing possible casualties on both sides.
The helicopter aircrew left the crash site, and with help from another flight crew member, Navid Garshasb staggered through snowy and rocky terrain and made it to the rescue aircraft location.

For his heroic efforts and quick action to neutralize the potential volatile situation, he received the Bronze Star with Valor and the Air Force Sergeant's Association Pitsenbarger Award. He’s the first non-rescue Airman to earn the Pitsenbarger Award.

Fast-forward to the present, after graduating basic military training, Andy Garshasb joined his family members, friends, and 16th Air Force leadership as they toured the 16th Air Force heritage center.

The heritage center houses a mannequin that now wears his father’s uniform.

“Seeing the memorial was a mixture of things… mainly, I’m proud of his legacy and honored that the Air Force arranged a display to showcase his heroics,” said Andy Garshasb, “…to be there with family and [my grandmother] who was in tears; that really made me feel the gravity of his actions.”

Brig. Gen. (Ret) Kevin B. Wooton, worked with his father Navid as a lieutenant colonel and Director of Intelligence, Joint Special Operations Task Force-South, Kandahar, Afghanistan.

“Everybody in the squadron looked up to Navid; when we deployed to Afghanistan, he was one of the team leads and was absolutely the right person,” said Wooton, during the tour. “When you’re a commander, you have to trust people and sometimes it’s really, really easy. It was easy with him.”

Wooten then turned to address Andy Garshasb directly, “I feel like, today, as you are standing there, you look so much like him…go let the heritage and legacy continue.”

Navid Garshasb eventually healed from his injuries after the crash and returned to flying status. He promoted to master sergeant and deployed in support of OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM in 2003. While deployed, doctors discovered he had developed a cancerous brain tumor; subsequently he was taken to Walter Reed in Washington, D.C.

Surgeons removed the tumor, and after multiple rounds of

chemotherapy treatment, he medically retired, just under 20-years of service.

After surviving the cancer, he battled through two strokes and a blood disorder, until he passed away in 2013.

“I’m just really happy I got to spend several years with him, and he didn’t pass away from the crash,” said Andy Garshasb. “The time I spent with my father was mainly at his bed side. Before his crash, he was very strict, but after, I noticed a different side to him. In the hospital I got to know him… he would joke around more often. He was very charismatic and humble, and I try to embody that a little bit.”

Ten years after his father’s death, Andy Garshasb graduated Air Force basic military training with distinction—honor graduate, a title reserved for the top 10 percent of the training flight.

“I think my father would be proud I made honor grad,” said Andy. “He set the bar and left it up to me to pick it up, or not. He influenced me to join and never pushed me.”

If Navid was here today, “he would say ‘hooyah; I’m proud of you Andy,’” said Joani Garshasb, Andy Garshasb’s mother. “He would be very happy for him joining; he [Navid] was happy being in the Air Force; he truly enjoyed it.”

His father’s love for the Air Force became a topic of many a bedside conversation between father and son, prior to Navid Garshasb’s passing.

“… he [Navid] wished he could fly in a helicopter and operate as a ‘Dizzo’ [direct support operator] one more time,” said Andy Garshasb. “He had a lot of emotion behind those words.”

Instead of flying in helicopters as an airborne linguist, Andy Garshasb chose to work on them. The day after graduating from basic, he left for Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, for aerospace propulsion technical training school.

“I can carry on the fight differently by maintaining the aircraft that delivers our troops to the fight,” he said. “So, it's a little different than what he was imagining, but equally as important.”

Chief Master Sgt. Robert L. Hopkins, 16th Air Force command chief, supports Andy Garshasb’s career decision, and after accompanying the Garshasb family on their tour, he spoke to him directly.

“Thank you for standing up and taking the oath and backfilling your dad,” said Hopkins. “That’s a huge accomplishment. You have your own shoes; they are going to be big, and you are    

going to walk your own path. Don’t feel like you must do everything he did. You have your own story.”

Col. Kayle M. Stevens, Joint Forces Headquarters-Cyber Air Force deputy commander, also accompanied the family during their time at the headquarters. Stevens didn’t know Navid Garshasb personally, but she spent most of her career in the Special Operations Forces Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance community as the 361st ISR Group commander and the 25th Intelligence Squadron commander.

“In these roles, and over the years, I got to know his wife Joani, and learn more about their family and him,” she said.        

“Master Sgt. Garshasb's life, his approach to skillset, and how he treated people are examples for fellow Airmen and ISR professionals to follow,” Stevens added. “He is a true example of a ‘quiet professional’ and the first Special Operations Forces truth that ‘Humans are more important than hardware.’ More importantly, he is a reminder of the seriousness of our profession and how training and preparation enable you to be ready to handle any situation.”

Andy Garshasb said the memory of his father is a constant companion as he progresses through the Air Force. “I feel like I'm seeing things from his perspective. It helped me get through BMT because I was imagining him going through it as well. Walking past trees, I kept wondering if he walked these very same routes.”

Now, when he puts on his uniform at daybreak and laces up his boots, he reflects on the significance of joining the Air Force, like his dad.

“When I first saw the Garshasb name tag on my uniform, I just sat there and stared at it, being proud of him and thinking, the last time this was on a uniform was when he wore it.”

Navid Garshasb’s uniform remains on display at the 16th Air Force heritage center, just as his son remembered it.

“I’ll never fill his boots, but I might fill his shadow,” he said.