Project Hero: SGT Leigh Ann Hester, Silver Star Posted by: McQ
on Saturday, January 28, 2006
In probably one of the most increidble stories to yet come out of the Iraq war is that of SGT Leigh Ann Hester. Hester, a National Guard MP and, in civilian life, a retail store manager, became the first woman to to be awarded the Silver Star since WWII. In a war where, even if not officially allowed, women soldiers have found themselves in combat, you'll see by SGT Hester's story that they've acquited themselves remarkably well. Although this particular story is pretty well known because of the "firsts" involved it is nevertheless a worthwile story to again spotlight:
Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester fought her way through an enemy ambush south of Baghdad, killing three insurgents with her M-4 rifle to save fellow soldiers' lives — and yesterday became the first woman since World War II to win the Silver Star medal for valor in combat.
The 23-year-old retail store manager from Bowling Green, Ky., won the award for skillfully leading her team of military police soldiers in a counterattack after about 50 insurgents ambushed a supply convoy they were guarding near Salman Pak on March 20.
The medal, rare for any soldier, underscores the growing role in combat of U.S. female troops in Iraq's guerrilla war, where tens of thousands of American women have served, 36 have been killed and 285 wounded, according to Pentagon figures.
After insurgents hit the convoy with a barrage of fire from machine guns, AK-47 assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades, Hester "maneuvered her team through the kill zone into a flanking position where she assaulted a trench line with grenades and M203 rounds," according to the Army citation accompanying the Silver Star.
"She then cleared two trenches with her squad leader where she engaged and eliminated three AIF [anti-Iraqi forces] with her M4 rifle. Her actions saved the lives of numerous convoy members," the citation stated.
Hester, a varsity softball and basketball player in high school, joined the Army in 2001 and was assigned to the Kentucky National Guard's 617th Military Police Company, based in Richmond, Ky.
A female driver with the unit, Spec. Ashley J. Pullen of Danville, Ky., won the Bronze Star for her bravery. Pullen laid down fire to suppress insurgents and then "exposed herself to heavy AIF fires in order to provide medical assistance to her critically injured comrades," saving several lives, her citation said.
Six other soldiers with Hester's unit won awards for defeating the ambush, leaving 27 insurgents dead, six wounded and one captured. They include Hester's squad leader, Staff. Sgt. Timothy F. Nein, who also won the Silver Star.
Note that SSG Timothy Nein also was awarded the Silver Star, and SPC Ashley Pullen awarded the Bronze Star for valor. I can't tell you how proud I am of all our OIF Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen, but SSG Hester and SPC Pullen's valorous actions provide you with a short glimpse at the calibre of women our military has within its ranks. They're professionals who don't shrink from their duty even under extremely trying circumstances and are the type any other soldier would be proud to have at their side when the going got tough.
PROJECT HERO is an ongoing attempt to highlight the valor of our military as they fight in both Iraq and Afghanistan. We constantly hear the negative and far to little of the positive and inspiring stories coming out of those countries. This is one small attempt to rectify that. If you know of a story of valor you'd like to see highlighted here (published on Saturday), please contact us. And we'd appreciate your link so we can spread the word.
I posted about Raven 42 when the after-action report showed up on some of the milblogs. Much of what I wrote was about the role of the competence and confidence which our military’s training produces. One of the reasons for the success of the action was that Sgt. Hester was able to reach blindly into one of the other vehicles of her unit and instantly put her hands on the ammunition she needed.
I JOINED THE NAVY IN 1982.AND I DID WHAT MOST MEN THOUGHT I COULDN’T,, I WAS ONE OF THE FIRST WOMEN TO BECOME AN HT..(WHICH WAS A MAN’S RATE) BUT I DID IT...AND I AM SO PROUD TO HEAR THAT WOMEN ARE GETTING SOME GRADIFICATION FOR WHAT WE CAN DO...CONGRATS LEIGH ANN AND WE ARE STRONG MENTALLY, PHYSIALLY, AND EMOTIONALLY...I AM WOMAN HEAR ME ROAR..LOL