|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.