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Marine captain honored for leadership

By CJ HADDAD - | Sep 23, 2021

United States Marine Corps Capt. Michael Higgins, pictured with his wife, Rachel Higgins, has been named the 2020 Lt. Col. Michael D. Kuszewski Marine Corps Intelligence Officer of the Year. PROVIDED

A Marine with Cape Coral roots was recently bestowed a prestigious military award in the realm of leadership.

United States Marine Corps Capt. Michael Higgins was named the 2020 Lt. Col. Michael D. Kuszewski Marine Corps Intelligence Officer of the Year. The award is given to the intelligence officer who is recognized by seniors, contemporaries and subordinates and exemplifies outstanding leadership within Marine Corps Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Enterprise. The officer must exhibit superior knowledge and understanding of the intricacies of the intelligence process.

“I was pretty surprised to be honest, but excited at the same time,” Higgins said of his reaction when he found out the news. “I was waiting for (the announcement) to come out just to see if I got it, and I had some of my Marines that I had nominated for awards in this group, so I was hoping they would get it, too. But I saw my name on there and excited and surprised was the biggest two feelings.”

In 2020, Higgins was the officer directly in charge of a team providing support to a special operations company. Under Marine Special Operations Company Delta, he and his team prepped for six months before deploying to Iraq as part of Marines Special Operations Task Force North, before eventually branching off into Marines Special Operations Company Iraq. Throughout six months in Iraq, Higgins and his team’s mission was to partner with an Iraqi Special Operations Force in an advise-and-assist role, working with them on the counter-ISIS mission. The entirety of his team made it back home safely, but unfortunately the unit before his lost two members. Higgins said he couldn’t have worked with a better group.

“What was great about that position was the Marines I was working with,” he said. “I had 12 highly trained, highly specialized, knowledgeable, professional guys working with me, and it makes it easy when you have people who love their job and are great at their job. It makes being a leader so much easier.

“For me, I don’t look at (the award) as necessarily something for everything that I did, but I was just the conduit to be the speaking voice for my guys that were doing the nitty-gritty day-to-day work, and I was able to give them rudder steers left and right to guide them towards a common goal that we had.”

Currently stationed at Camp Pendleton in San Diego, Higgins, 27, spent the majority of his childhood and high school years in Cape Coral, and attended Evangelical Christian School in Fort Myers before heading off to the United States Naval Academy.

Higgins was commissioned in 2016 and after more than five years, he will end his active service this coming April.

“I do look back on this time as a special time. I made a lot of great friends, colleagues and teammates across the Special Operations community on the intelligence side and on the operator side,” he said. “There are some phenomenal guys and girls that I’ve worked with. There are some true heroes and it’s pretty humbling to hear some of their stories and work with them.”

The next step for Higgins is still unclear, as he is currently searching for employment post-military. He said returning to Southwest Florida certainly isn’t off of the table.

Congressman Byron Donalds (FL-19) also released a statement recognizing Higgins’ honor.

“An American hero and lifelong Southwest Florida resident, United States Marine Corps Capt. Michael Higgins has dedicated his life to serving our nation. This prestigious award acknowledges his character, mental toughness, patriotism, and selfless determination,” Donalds said. “America is safer today because of the courageous actions of warriors and elite Intelligence Officers like Capt. Higgins who have devoted their lives to defending the greatest nation in the world. Capt. Higgins exemplifies the very best of the Marines and the United States, placing God and country before himself, and it is an honor to serve as his Member of Congress.”

–Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj