News: Truck commander receives Purple Heart
Story by Staff Sgt. Patrick Caldwell
CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE SPEICHER, Iraq – Sgt. Nick Southard, a truck commander for Company Charlie, 3rd Battalion, 116th Cavalry Regiment, 77th Sustainment Brigade, 310th Expeditionary Sustainment Command, and a native of Elgin, Ore., knows he is a lucky man.
In February, the mine resistant ambush protected vehicle he commanded hit an improvised explosive device outside of Joint Base Balad, Iraq. The MRAP, specifically designed to withstand such blasts, saved Southard and his crew.
Recently, Southard was recognized for his actions during and after the IED attack when he was awarded the Purple Heart medal at Contingency Operating Base Speicher, Iraq.
The Purple Heart medal is awarded in the name of the President of the United States to members of the Armed Forces who are wounded or killed while serving in action against an enemy of the United States.
“It is an honor,” Southard said of the award.
He said that earning a Purple Heart was not high on his list of priorities when he deployed to Iraq with eastern Oregon’s 3-116th Cavalry Regiment.
“It is an honor to get it and still be alive,” he said.
He added that he and his crew utilized skills honed over months of training to react to the IED.
“Between the three of us, we did exactly what we were supposed to do,” Southard said of himself and his team on the day of the attack.
Capt. Seth Musgrove, the commander of C Company, 3-116th Cavalry Regiment, and a native of La Grande, Ore., said he is pleased with the performance of Southard and his crew during the IED attack. Yet he, too, admitted awarding a Purple Heart medal sparks mixed emotions.
“It is bittersweet because it is one of those awards you don’t want to get,” he said. “His courage reflects on the unit and the coalition mission in Iraq. He is a solid soldier. His determination is a reflection on his personal courage.”
While proud of being recognized, Southard said he is ready to get back out on the road to help C Company escort convoys across central Iraq.
“I actually tried to get them to let me go out early,” he said.
Southard said he takes pride in the work he and the rest of C Company do every day while escorting convoys across Iraq.
“I feel like I’m part of the team trying to make everyone safe,” he said.