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Bravery in action

Prineville's John Soules receives medals for combat action in Iraq

by: Photo by JOHN TURNER, U.S. AIR FORCE - Senior Airman John Soules, who received the Purple Heart and Airforce Combat Action Medal for his bravery in Iraz, shakes hands with Major General Roger Burg, 20th Air Force Commander, after receiving his honors on Dec. 10, 2007.

When the Humvee Senior Airman John Soules was riding in was hit by an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) on June 28, 2007, he initially didn't realize he had been injured.
   "I don't remember the explosion," he said.
   What clued him in was when he reached up a gloved hand to touch his head and noticed it was soaked in blood.
   Soules, 22, a Prineville resident, received the Purple Heart and Air Force Combat Action Medal in a Dec. 10 ceremony at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Malmstrom, Mont. His injuries included two lacerations to his forehead from shrapnel and a severe concussion.
   Soules has served with the Air Force for three and one half years and was stationed out of Camp Liberty in Baghdad, Iraq, with the 732nd Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron, Detachment 3. His squadron was assigned to police transition teams and worked closely with the Iraqi police forces.
   "We worked with them to try to get them to do their jobs to the best of their abilities," Soules said.
   His team was also responsible for accounting for the police force's weapons and making sure the armory personnel were doing their jobs.
   Soules worked as a 240 gunner and when his vehicle, an 11-14 Humvee, was hit he was in the turret.
   "We had been out at an Iraqi Police Station and we were heading to a fort operating base to drop off our captain, when we were coming to sort of a merge lane into a different road," Soules said. "After it happened, I remember standing up and I was yelling at a car, and the next thing I know, I'm sitting down and it's all hazy and I'm like, `What happened?'"
   The car in question caught Soules's attention when it began creeping toward his convoy, and was perceived as a threat.
   Soules was the only person actually wounded in the vehicle, although their interpreter received a concussion. His was also the only vehicle hit in a convoy of four carrying 14 personnel.
   When Soules's father, Gary, received news of his son's injuries, he said he "hoped and prayed for his well-being."
   After the attack, Soules was treated in the 28th Combat Support Hospital in the international zone of Baghdad.
   This, however, wasn't his first, or his squadron's last, experience with the deadly IEDs. Soules's Humvee was also hit nine days previous to the June 28 blast, but he wasn't injured. Just five days after Soules was injured, his squadron was struck again.
   "My lead truck was hit and Taylor, who was the driver of the truck the day I got hit, was wounded. One of our best NCOs was wounded severely and the gunner was also wounded," Soules said. The crew had to be medically evacuated back to the states.
   Service to our country has a long history within the Soules family and has been ingrained in John since he marched in Veteran's Day parades as a toddler. He is the fourth generation who has seen action overseas.
   "John has marched in all the Veteran's Day parades from the time he was about a year old," Gary, a Vietnam veteran, said. "He has represented his country very well. He's the fourth generation who has had a combat role. That's very unusual."
   Soules himself feels deeply proud to be serving.
   "What's most rewarding is the pride you get from it," he said. "And the close friends that you bond real tight with."
   Soules also has a strong support system at home and has received care packages from many local groups in Prineville including Beta Sigma Phi, the VFW and Morgan Stanley, which sent 20 packages to distribute among his unit.
   Brenda Chapman, a close friend of the Soules family, mentioned that everyone is happy for John-and relieved.
   "We're very proud of John and glad he came home alive and well," she said.
   Soules is currently on leave until Jan. 9, when he will return to the Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana.