Tre Davis at DVIDS:
A passenger-filled sedan rolled violently against a dirt median, abruptly halted on its roof and blocked oncoming traffic on the interstate. Master Sgt. Shale Norwitz’s duty to protect and serve took precedence.
Due to this application of military training and a unique diagnosis, Norwitz safely safely extracted the occupants of the vehicle, led victims away from the wreckage, and redirected the flow of traffic.
Norwitz, an Airman of the 5th Combat Communications Group, 688th Cyberspace Wing, attributed his heroic acts to his military training and his neurodiversity.
“I’m on the [autism] spectrum and that makes me good at being a strategic thinker and contributes to my innovation,” said Norwitz. “This is the stuff that makes us great but it is something we need reinforcement on.”
Norwitz said that his neurodiversity allows him to objectively react during situations.
He said that because of his ability to remove emotion from a situation, he is able to see a clear series of targets, tasks and creative solutions whenever an issue arises.
This ability led him to learn to accept his diagnosis.
According to USAF Medical Standards Directory, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is not disqualifying for continued military service unless it is currently--or has a history of--compromising military duty or training. [The Navy is different.]
Norwitz has seen improvements in his professional development and feels empowered to reduce the negative stigmas surrounding autism.
“The final step is to accept [being autistic],” said Norwitz. “That is how we rise [from negative stereotypes]. If we can learn and educate ourselves, we can elevate to a position of acceptance.”