Lt. Gregory Harkrider, son of Jerry and Ema Lou Harkrider of Gilmer, was presented the honor at the U.S. Naval Air Station in Jacksonville, Fla., on Nov. 26.
According to the Dec. 11, 2008, edition of
JaxAirNews, the award was presented by his Commanding Officer, Capt. Kyle Cozad.
The article said that Harkrider recently returned from an Individual Augmentee (IA) assignments in Iraq and Afghanistan, where he earned his medal.
The article stated that “Lt. Gregory Harkrider received the Bronze Star Medal for exceptional meritorious service as Alpha Company Commander, Naval Provisional Detainee Battalion-Ramadi, Multi-National Forces-Iraq, Camp Bucca, Iraq, from October 2007 to October 2008 during Operation Iraqi Freedom. From day one at the mobilization center, Harkrider demonstrated incomparable leadership, unmatched organization and positive motivation skills in assigning duties, training and deployment of his unit comprised of 165 IA Sailors from over 40 UICs and all ratings.
“Harkrider’s superlative decision making was the crucial element and driving force in evaluating and organizing his Sailors despite several vacated leadership positions, resulting in a disciplined fighting force that exceeded every CENTCOM and Army standard throughout the deployment. Once his unit arrived in theater, it came immediately under indirect fire.
“Harkrider personally led the unit and ensured all Sailors were accounted for and uninjured. Accomplishing his mission under continuous threats of indirect fire, he commanded his company of trained guards in the superior performance of their complex Military Police duties in the arduous and hostile environment of the world’s largest (more than 20,000 detainees) internment facility.”
The article said that with very little initial supply support for his start-up company and despite being inadequately equipped for their mission, Harkrider learned the complexities of the Army supply system, coordinated and resourced with nine Field Artillery National Guard units, one Army Reserve Military Police company, and one Army Active Component Combat Security company to ensure the unit was ready to take over a newly built compound less than 30 days after reporting in theater.
It said that “His exceptional professional knowledge and quick study of Military Police doctrine were instrumental in successfully maintaining proper care, fair treatment and 100 percent accountability of all 2,000-plus detainees.
Despite controlling a compound created from wire, wood and sand with only tents to house detainees, Harkrider directed and conducted regular inspections and searches for contraband to ensure the safety of his Sailors and the humane care of detainees, the article by Lt. Jason Mays stated.
“These detainees were high risk, covertly manufacturing sling-propelled and bladed- weapons, interned due to their insurgent affiliation and the nature of their violent crimes of murder, torture, IED emplacement and insurgent activity.”
Harkrider made sure every member of his guard force understood and supported the counterinsurgency operations mission designed to empower the moderate detainee population with the knowledge needed to marginalize the behavior of the violent extremists, Mays wrote.
“During a time when one-third of the entire guard force of over 5,400 Army Soldiers were relieved in place with only an 8-day turnover period, Harkrider provided additional training and resolute guidance to prevent detainee manipulations of the guard force, quell uprisings, and set an exemplary example for 12 newly reported compound and 10 company commanders to follow,” the article stated.
Harkrider served as a member of the Multi-National Force Review Council, listening to over 100 detainee cases making the recommendation for their release or retention; to see if they proved to be an enduring threat to coalition forces or the Iraqi government.
“Harkrider’s actions are in keeping with the finest traditions of military service and reflect distinct credit upon himself, his command and the United States Navy,” the article stated.
“Gregory feels honored to receive this medal and to be in the company of many famous recipients of the Bronze Star, but he feels most honored to have known Harold Beasley, deceased, of Gilmer, a distant relative, who received the Bronze Star medal for his heroic service to our country in World War II,” his mother said.
He was born in Gilmer and is a 1987 graduation of Pleasant Grove High School in Texarkana. He joined the U.S. Navy just out of high school. He is stationed at the Navy Air Station in Jacksonville, Fla., where he lives with his wife Cindy and their four children.