Two Fort Hood soldiers were awarded the Purple Heart Medal in Afghanistan on May 6 for injuries sustained while defending a base from an enemy attack.
Cpl. Michael Mayefski and Staff Sgt. Richard Yocius, both of 163rd Military Intelligence Battalion, 504th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade, were at Forward Operating Base Pasab in January when insurgents conducted a complex attack with enemy forces breaking through the wire of the base.
“When the attack happened, we were spread out across the base,” said 1st Lt. Matthew Dugan, Yocius’ platoon leader. “We proceeded to secure the area for ourselves, our soldiers and the civilians in the nearby area.”
The initial blast that broke the base’s barrier was from a car bomb, driven by insurgents into the outer wall of the small base in southern Afghanistan. It was so large that it knocked Yocius down hard enough to give him a concussion. The blast happened while his team was preparing for a mission, conducting rehearsal of concept drills.
Mayefski was preparing for work when the blast occurred.
“I was close enough to the explosion to where a board fell and knocked me in the head pretty hard,” he said. “I was knocked out, and then hit the floor, where I knocked my head again.”
The attack lasted four or five hours, and soldiers were able to protect the 50 people on base.
Mayefski, a human intelligence collector, said civilian personnel working with Army & Air Force Exchange Service were nearby so soldiers pulled them in and secured them as well.
“When we had the all-clear and the (the base) was safe, we double-checked everything and made sure everyone was OK,” he said.
Dugan commended both soldiers for the selfless actions.
“It was clear they were both injured, but they were still able to perform their duty. Everyone involved did an excellent job. The training kicked in and we were able to contribute,” Dugan said.
Yocius, a low-level voice intercept team leader, said he remained focused on what needed to be done.
“I just had to get our guys back to our compound,” he said.
Since the attack, both soldiers have received treatment for their concussions and are feeling better.
“We had very good clinics where we were at,” Mayefski said.
The awards were presented by Maj. Gen. Paul J. LaCamera, commander of Regional Command South and 4th Infantry Division.
“This isn’t an award you want to necessarily get, but you wear it with honor,” LaCamera said. “They did the right things and I commend these soldiers for their actions during the events that took place.”
The 163rd battalion deployed for nine months to Regional Command South in August and should be returning to Fort Hood in the coming weeks.
Mayefski said every soldier has a unique answer when asked what they are most looking forward to once they return. For him, it’s taking a breath of fresh air. For Yocius, he’s hoping to get his first pet dog.
Sgt. Clay Beyersdorfer, 70th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, contributed to this report.