Hill Airman receives Purple Heart

HILL AIR FORCE BASE — Tech. Sgt. Jesus Soto, an electronic warfare specialist in the 388th Fighter Wing’s Component Maintenance Squadron, received the Purple Heart Oct. 30 for injuries sustained during an attack on Nov. 21, 2005.

“If I left it up to Jesus, this would have been a very modest ceremony,” said Lt. Col. Steven Oliver, 388th Component Maintenance Squadron commander. “Out of respect for his deeds, we could not let that happen.”

Soto, then a gunner with the 1st Security Forces Squadron out of Langley AFB, VA, was deployed to Forward Operating Base Speicher near Tikrit, Iraq, where he provided security to joint U.S. convoys and foreign national supply trucks. 

The night of Nov. 21, Soto’s convoy was hit by an improvised explosive device, causing a supply truck carrying a large amount of motor oil to violently explode and catch fire. A few hours afterward, a quick response force arrived and relieved Soto’s convoy to continue to their destination.

On the return trip back to FOB Speicher, a hostile vehicle attempted to infiltrate the convoy and caused Soto’s vehicle to lose control and flip over several times. Soto was ejected from the five-ton gun truck, rupturing his bladder, breaking his left leg and left forearm, and shattering his left wrist. He also suffered lacerations on his face and injured his right hip. Soto was taken to several overseas operating locations for treatment.

During the ceremony, Oliver thanked the entire Soto family for their sacrifice and supporting Soto through his injuries and multiple surgeries.

“Thank you for showing true bravery in the face of the enemy, for being a wingman of the highest order and for exemplifying to the fullest, our core value of ‘Service Before Self,’ ” Oliver said.

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