Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Women in Service: Army Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester
For the second installment of our Women in Service feature, American Veteran Online has chosen to highlight Army Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester, the first woman to earn the Silver Star since WWII.
In 2005, Hester served in Iraq as a military police sergeant with the 627th Military Police Company of the Kentucky National Guard.
Hester and her squad leader, Staff Sgt. Timothy Nein, were each awarded the Silver Star, one of the nation's highest combat awards for valor, for their actions during an ambush in March 2005.
Hester's squad was providing security for a 30-vehicle convoy near the town of Salman Pak, when they came under attack by more than 50 insurgent fighters, leaving Hester and her team outnumbered five to one. The insurgents were intent on wiping out the entire convoy and taking drivers hostage.
When the insurgents attacked, they completely disabled the convoy's lead vehicle, rendering the main supply route impassable. The convoy and Hester's security team were now pinned inside the kill zone.
Thinking quickly, Hester moved her vehicle into a flanking position and ordered her MK19 gunner to lay down suppressive fire on irrigation ditches along the road where the insurgents had sought cover. From here, Hester dismounted her Humvee and joined up with Nein to clear the ditches. During the ensuing close-quarters combat, Hester and Nein successfully neutralized the enemy with small arms fire and grenades.
When the smoke cleared following the 25-minute firefight, 27 insurgents had been killed, six were wounded, and another was taken into custody. The insurgents had failed.
Hester was awarded the Silver Star for "conspicuous gallantry in action." Though she was the first woman to earn the award since WWII, she was the first female in the history of the U.S. military to be cited for valor in close-quarters combat.
(Photos: Top: Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester stands at parade rest after receiving her Silver Star during an award ceremony at Camp Victory, Iraq in 2005. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Jeremy D. Crisp, released. Bottom: Hester looks over information at the Global War on Terrorism exhibit at the Army Women's Museum in Fort Lee, Va. The exhibit depicts the actions for which Hester earned her Silver Star during the 2005 ambush. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. John Soucy, released.)