NCO's heroics prove AF lethality

  • Published
  • By Wayne Amann
  • AFOSI Public Affairs

Before he became an Air Force Office of Special Investigations Special Agent, Greggory Swarz, now with Detachment 203, Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D., exhibited the character of a hero that would make his present command proud.  

On Jan. 26, 2015, then Staff Sgt. Swarz, an Electro and Environmental Specialist, dragged three French airmen out of the intense fire that ensued after a Greek F-16 crashed on the flight line during a multinational exercise in Spain.

For his actions Swarz was awarded The Airman’s Medal from then commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa Gen. Frank Gorenc, the French Legion of Honor from French President Francois Hollande and the Spanish Aeronautical Merit Medal from Spanish Minister of Defense Pedro Morenes.

“Then as today, I think it was the right thing to do. People, airmen, brothers-in-arms were dying and I had to help,” SA Swarz said. “I’m honored for all the national and international recognition. But, the best reward I got was the inner peace of having done the right thing.” 

The story doesn’t end there.

Swarz’s heroic actions prompted special remarks by Gen. Tod D. Wolters, Commander, U.S. Air Forces in Europe; Commander, U.S. Air Forces Africa; Commander, NATO Allied Air Command and Director, Joint Air Power Competence Centre, during the 2019 Air Warfare Symposium Combat Air Force Commander’s Panel discussion in Orlando, Fla.

General Wolters referenced the incident and SA Swarz specifically to illustrate how the brave Airmen at the tactical level make our National Defense Strategy, the Department of Defense and the U.S. Air Force all so lethal. During his remarks Wolters displayed a photo of Swarz receiving the French Legion of Honor from the French Secretary of Defense.

“He went on to mention (tongue-in-cheek) Gregg now serves as a Special Agent, but couldn’t disclose his current assignment because he’d have to kill the audience,” wrote Det. 203 Special Agent-In-Charge Matthew Maguire to AFOSI Region 2 leadership. “Gen. Wolters' remarks were inspiring and it was awesome to see one of our own honored on such a grand stage. We are very proud of Gregg, a great example of the many heroes who proudly wear the (OSI) badge.”

As one can only imagine, recounting the tragic details of that fateful day are still etched in, now Tech. Sgt. Swarz’s memory.

“I was on top of a ladder, changing a light assembly on an F-15 when suddenly I heard a tremendous thunder, when I looked back I saw a huge wall of flames just across the tarmac,” SA Swarz said. “The ramp area was engulfed in flames, smoke and continuous explosions.

“Looking back I remember the turmoil of thoughts and mixed feelings, I honestly believed I would not make it out alive. It was a miracle I survived,” he said. “I just wanted to rescue as many people as I could before getting trapped in the fire or getting hit with one of the many pieces of flying shrapnel. The heavy black smoke and fire made breathing almost impossible.”

Surviving that crash ordeal postured SA Swarz for the daily rigors of OSI work.

“Law enforcement was always on my horizon, and when the AFOSI opportunity came, I took it, putting all my heart and mind into it,” he said. “The crash made me see the tragic side of life and death, human fragility. The accident helped me be a better human being and consequently a better OSI Special Agent.

“In the end it’s the quest for right and wrong, trying to make a better and safer world in my country and in my Air Force.”