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U.S. Marine Cpl. Jason D. Soley

Pennsylvania native earns medal for focused action under fire

By Pfc. Brian D. Jones
2nd Marine Division

COMBAT OUTPOST BLACK, Iraq, June 26, 2007 —  A Marine from L Company, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, with combat distinguishing device in a ceremony here, June 20, for his actions during an enemy attack.

For Cpl. Jason D. Soley, the squad leader for 2nd squad, 3rd platoon, March 13 was just another day of combat operations during Operation Northern Forge. His squad was part of a company-level operation in the Albu Bali area to disrupt insurgent use of the region as a safe haven. They had been operating continuously since the operation began on March 8, patrolling all day and sleeping in a new house every night. This day promised to be no different.

“We were doing a local security patrol,” said Soley, 21, from Westchester, Pa., “We exited one house and were walking through the field going to our objective, which was another house. As we were walking through the field we came upon a five- or six-foot-deep canal.”

The squad’s point man, Lance Cpl. Angel Rosa, 21, from South Portland, Maine, walked into the canal searching for a safe crossing point. As he disappeared from view, a massive explosion shook the ground, turning the squad’s world upside down.

“I looked up and I didn’t see Rosa come out of the ditch,” said Soley.

Rosa had unknowingly stepped directly onto an improvised explosive device, which ignited a complex ambush. Insurgent forces opened fire on the squad with a heavy volume of small arms fire, sending the Marines diving for cover and a good position to suppress the incoming fire.

Soley instinctively assessed the situation and began directing his squad. He quickly sent his team leaders to a nearby house to provide suppressive fire against the enemy machine gun position. After his squad began suppressing the enemy threat, Soley turned his attention to the evacuation of his severely wounded point man. Ignoring the rounds snapping over his head, Soley ran to the canal to check on Rosa.

“When I came up to the ditch I saw Thorn down there,” added Soley. “The vivid thing I remember is hearing (Thorn) yell for a corpsman, and then I yelled for a corpsman. Then I saw Rosa and it hit me like a bat to the face. I was thinking ‘We got to get him out of here, we got to get him out of here,’ because he was in pretty bad shape.”

After overcoming the initial “bat to the face,” Soley said his training kicked in. He found a hasty landing zone for the helicopter and calmly called in the casualty evacuation report, something he had practiced but hoped to never do.

After calling in the report, Soley, without hesitation and still under fire, sprinted across a 75-meter open field to his Marines that were providing suppression. He continued to direct the fires of those two teams until they overcame the enemy.

“I think I heard maybe two rounds go over my head,” added Soley. “I was so much in the zone that I (didn’t hear them). The squad kept saying that there was rounds going everywhere, the insurgents had to have shot at least 300 or 400 rounds at us. I just zoned all that out and did what I had to do.”

1st Lt. Jordan P. Jones, a 25-year-old New Orleans native and platoon commander for 3rd platoon, was only a short distance away with 3rd squad, which had also come under fire.

“I was obviously worried,” said Jones. “I saw an explosion and I thought that one of his guys had been hit, but I wasn’t sure. At the same time, the squad I was with and his squad were both taking machine gun fire. My primary concern was attempting to negate that threat whichever way I could. I also was concerned that we were going to take more casualties because of the machine gun fire.”

Not knowing if anyone had been injured, Jones and 3rd squad stayed put and began suppressing the enemy.

“We were firing on our side and 2nd squad was firing on their side,” said Jones. “At the time I was trying to build my situational awareness of what 2nd squad’s position was and where the enemy was.

Photo - See caption below.
Cpl. Jason D. Soley, 21, from Westchester, Pa., shakes the hand of Col. Richard L. Simcock, the commanding officer of Regimental Combat Team 6, after being awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, with combat distinguishing device, June 20, 2007. Soley, a member of L Company, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, received the award for his heroic actions on March 13, 2007, when he and his Marines were attacked by insurgent forces in Iraq.

I heard Cpl. Soley come over the radio calling in the (evacuation report) and that’s when I knew something was up and we had to get rolling.”

Third squad, on Soley’s request, left their position and moved to link up with 2nd squad to help secure the landing zone. The firing had tapered off, but the threat was still there. Soley directed the new arrivals to a position where they could secure the west side of the landing zone, while his squad took the south and east sides.

“He was on fire,” Jones said. “He was doing everything a squad leader was supposed to do, ensuring everything was ready for the (casualty report), keeping his guys on point with keeping eyes on where the fire was coming from, even though at this point the enemy had stopped firing, and keeping his guys vigilant despite what they saw happen to one of their buddies.”

When Jones arrived on the scene, he quickly linked up with Soley to get a handle on the situation.

“I never felt like I had to take over,” said Jones. “When I got on scene I was looking for something to do, trying to help him out, but he had the situation so well in hand that he didn’t need anything. He had it completely under control.”

As the helicopter arrived overhead, Soley used a green star cluster as an improvised beacon, ensuring that no time was wasted in getting the helicopter on the ground. His snap decision on the landing zone proved to be a good one.

“He had found one that was nearby and it was perfect,” said Jones. “That’s just one of the many things he did throughout this whole attack that helped save his squad and gave Rosa the best chance to live that he could.”

Once the helicopter was on the deck, Soley linked up with the crew chief and was able to get Rosa off the ground while he was still alive. Tragically, Rosa succumbed to his injuries. His loss left an irreplaceable hole in the hearts of his fellow Marines.

“The other thing that impressed me about him was his maturity in dealing with an obviously catastrophic loss and the loss of a close friend,” said Jones. “He has done an excellent job and continues to do an excellent job holding his squad together and keeping them focused on the mission.”

Soley still doesn’t know how he was able to stay so calm through the ordeal.

“I guess it’s all the training, really. I don’t know,” said Soley with a shrug. “On previous patrols I would think about the (casualty evacuation) report. I would go through it in my head, just saying it over and over again. That was the only way I could help him so that’s what I did.”

Throughout the entire engagement, Soley had calmly and effectively handled the situation. He moved from position to position without regard for his own safety. His courage and selflessness in the face of the enemy inspired the Marines in his squad and kept their minds focused on the mission. His quick actions and determination under the most extreme circumstances were the embodiment of the “warrior spirit.”

Last Updated:
06/26/2007, Eastern Daylight Time
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