Women Warriors Paving the Way
Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester of the 617th Military Police Company, a National Guard unit out of Richmond, Ky., received the Silver Star, along with two other members of her unit, Staff Sgt. Timothy Nein and Spc. Jason Mike, for their actions during an enemy ambush on their convoy. Her award reads as the following: “Hester's squad was shadowing a supply convoy on March 20 when anti-Iraqi fighters ambushed the convoy. The squad moved to the side of the road, flanking the insurgents and cutting off their escape route. Hester led her team through the kill zone and into a flanking position, where she assaulted a trench line with grenades and M203 grenade-launcher rounds. She and Nein, her squad leader, then cleared two trenches, at which time she killed three insurgents with her rifle” (Wood, 2005).
In April 2007, after a roadside bomb detonated near a convoy of Humvees in the eastern Paktia Province of Afghanistan, Private First Class Brown saved the lives of fellow soldiers by running through insurgent gunfire to reach the wounded and then using her body to shield them while mortar rounds fell nearby (Abrashi, 2008). Because women were not formally allowed to participate directly in combat at the time, Brown was pulled back to the base at Khost shortly after the incident (Tyson, 2008). Brown, who joined the Army at age 17, was presented with the Silver Star by Vice President Dick Cheney in a ceremony on 21 March 2008 (Clare, 2008).
Sergeant Leigh Ann Hester Citation:
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress July 9, 1918 (amended by an act of July 25, 1963), takes pleasure in presenting the Silver Star to Sergeant Leigh Ann Hester, United States Army, for exceptionally valorous achievement during combat operations in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM, on 20 March 2005, in Iraq. Sergeant Hester's heroic actions in Iraq contributed to the overwhelming success of the Multi-National Corps-Iraq mission. While serving as the Team Leader for RAVEN 42B in the 617th Military Police Company, 503d Military Police Battalion (Airborne), 18th Military Police Brigade, Sergeant Hester led her soldiers on a counterattack of anti-Iraqi Forces (AIF) who were ambushing a convoy with heavy AK-47 assault rifle fire, PRK machine gun fire, and rocket propelled grenades. Sergeant Hester maneuvered her team through the kill zone into a flanking position where she assaulted a trench line with grenades and M-203 rounds. She then cleared two trenches with her Squad Leader where she engaged and eliminated 3 AIF with her M-4 rifle. Her actions saved the lives of numerous convoy members. Sergeant Hester's bravery is in keeping with the finest traditions of military heroism and reflects distinct credit upon herself, the 503d Military Police Battalion (Airborne), the 18th Military Police Brigade, and the United States Army. NARRATIVE TO ACCOMPANY AWARD: Sergeant Leigh A. Hester is cited for conspicuous gallantry in action against an armed enemy of the United States while engaged in military operations involving conflict with anti Iraq forces (AIF) as a team leader for Raven 42B, 617th Military Police Company, 503d Military Police Battalion (Airborne) stationed at Camp Liberty, Iraq on 20 March 2005, in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. The team's mission was to assist Raven 42 in searching the Eastern Convoy Route for improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and provide additional security to sustainment convoys traveling through their area of responsibility. While patrolling Alternate Supply Route (ASR) Detroit, Raven 42B was shadowing a sustainment convoy consisting of 30 third country national (TCN) semi-tractor trailers with a three vehicle squad size escort, call sign Stallion 33, traveling from LSA (logistics support area) Anaconda to CSC (convoy support center) Scania. The weather for this ASR patrol was 75 degrees and sunny with a 10 knot breeze from the southwest. While traveling on ASR Detroit approximately 50 AIF ambushed the convoy with heavy AK47 fire, RPK heavy machine gun fire, and rocket propelled grenades (RPGs) from the southwest side of the road at 1140 hours. The AIF were utilizing irrigation ditches and an orchard for the well planned complex attack. The AIF had cars combat parked along a road perpendicular to the ASR with all doors and trunks open. The AIF intent was to destroy the convoy, to inflict numerous casualties, and to kidnap several TCN drivers or U.S. Soldiers. The initial ambush disabled and set on fire the lead TCN vehicle, which effectively blocked the southbound lanes of ASR Detroit, stopping the convoy in the kill zone. The squad leader, Staff Sergeant Timothy Nein, directed the squad to move forward, traveling on the right shoulder and passing through the engagement area between the enemy and the convoy. Sergeant Hester directed her gunner to provide heavy volumes of MK 19 and M240B fires into the field where an overwhelming number of insurgents were executing a well coordinated ambush on the convoy. Raven 42 elements were outnumbered five to one. Staff Sergeant Nein ordered the squad to flank the insurgents on their right side. The squad continued to come under heavy machine gun fire and rocket propelled grenade fire when Sergeant Hester stopped her vehicle, the middle vehicle, at a flanking position enfilading the trench line and the orchard field where over a dozen insurgents were engaging the squad and convoy. She then directed her gunner to focus fires in the trench line and the orchard field. Sergeant Hester dismounted and moved to what was thought to be the non-contact side of the vehicle. She ordered her gunner to continue to fire on the orchard field as she and her driver engaged insurgents in the orchard field with small arms. Sergeant Hester began engaging the insurgents with her M203 in order to suppress the heavy AIF fire. Sergeant Hester followed Staff Sergeant Nein to the right side berm and threw two well placed fragmentation grenades into the trench eliminating the AIF threat. Sergeant Hester and Staff Sergeant Nein went over the berm into the trench and began clearing the trench with their M4s. Sergeant Hester engaged and eliminated three AIF to her front with her M4. They then made their way to the front trench and cleared that as well. After clearing the front trench cease fire was called and she began securing the ambush site. The final result of the ambush was 27 AIF KIA (killed in action), 6 AIF WIA (wounded in action), and one AIF captured.
Specialist Monica Lin Brown Citation:
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress July 9, 1918 (amended by an act of July 25, 1963), takes pleasure in presenting the Silver Star to Specialist [then Private First Class] Monica Lin Brown, United States Army, for extraordinary heroism while serving as a Combat Medic with the 4th Squadron, 73d Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, in action on 25 April 2007. On that date, 2d Platoon, Charlie Troop, 4th Squadron, 73d Cavalry Regiment, was on a combat patrol moving to Jani Khel, Afghanistan, for a leader engagement with the village elders. The element consisted of five vehicles: four M1151 Uparmored HMMWV's (UAH) and one Afghan National Army (ANA) Ford Ranger. They were in a column formation moving north along Route VIPER. In the vicinity of 42S VA263021 the trail vehicle, C23, struck a pressure plate IED on the driver's side rear tire, which ignited the fuel tank and fuel cans mounted on the rear of the vehicle. The explosion of the fuel tank and cans engulfed the vehicle in an intense fireball. This initiated a planned ambush which commenced after the explosion. The patrol began to take small arms fire from the direction of a kholat to the east, approximately 100 meters away. The small arms fire was impacting around the lead vehicle which was 300 meters north of the IED site. The small arms fire began to concentrate on the IED site as the Platoon Medic, Private First Class Brown, moved on foot to evaluate the casualties. She was exposed to the small arms fire until the maneuver element could swing around and begin suppressing the enemy as she treated the wounded Soldiers. After making an initial assessment and treating in order of severity, she moved the casualties with the aid and direction of the Platoon Sergeant, into the wadi the engulfed vehicle was hanging over. The enemy fighters then engaged the patrol with mortar fire. Private First Class Brown threw her own body over the casualties to shield them as the mortars were impacting 75 to 100 meters away. Approximately 15 mortars impacted within close range of the casualties as Private First Class Brown continued treatment. Private First Class Brown continued treatment in the wadi approximately 15 meters from the burning vehicle, at which time the onboard 60-mm. mortar, 5.56-mm. ammunition, and 40-mm. grenade rounds on board began to explode. Again disregarding her own safety, Private First Class Brown shielded the casualties with her own body as large chunks of shrapnel and 5.56-mm. rounds began flying through the air from the burning vehicle. The patrol leader arrived on site and found it incredible she was still alive and treating the casualties amidst the extremely dangerous conditions she was operating under. Given the hazards to Private First Class Brown, the platoon sergeant used the ANA Ranger to move the wounded Soldiers and Private First Class Brown to a more protected position. As the truck began driving down the wadi, a large 60-mm. mortar explosion occurred sending shrapnel flying all around where Private First Class Brown had been treating casualties. The platoon leader was dragged by the ANA truck with the casualties as the explosions became incredibly intense and the platoon sergeant moved Private First Class Brown to a more protected position to continue treatment. Private First Class Brown continued treatment of the two wounded Soldiers at the new site as enemy small arms fire began to impact around the new position. Private First Class Brown continued treatment of the casualties as the platoon returned fire in close vicinity of her. She shielded the wounded from falling brass and enemy fire once again, ensuring the casualties were stabilized and ready for MEDEVAC. Specialist Brown's heroic actions are in keeping with the finest traditions of military service, reflecting great credit upon herself, the 82d Airborne Division, and the United States Army (U.S. Army, 2012).
Abrashi, F. (2008). Medic Stationed in Afghanistan Becomes 2nd Woman to Be Awarded Silver Star. Associated Press.
Clare, M. (2008). 2nd Woman Since WWII Gets Silver Star. United States Army.
Tyson, A. (2008). Woman Gains Silver Star – And Removal From Combat. The Washington Post.
U.S. Army Medical Department (2012). Monica Brown Silver Star Citation. Retrieved from https://ameddregiment.amedd.army.mil/silverstar/oifoef/oifoef1.html
Wood, S. (2005). Woman Soldier Receives Silver Star for Valor in Iraq. Retrieved from http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=16391