UNSUNG HEROES: The Woman Soldier Who Received The Silver Star In Iraq


In 2005, on a supply convoy in Salman Pak, Iraq, just south of Baghdad, Leigh Ann Hester and her soldiers were ambushed.

Her squad consisted of two women and eight men in three humvees. They were ambushed by more than 50 insurgent fighters, wielding AK-47s, rocket-propelled grenades, and RPK machine gun fire, according to her award citation.

Hester, a sergeant assigned to the 617th Military Police Company with the Kentucky Army National Guard, led her team out of the ambush’s kill zone and into a flanking position, cutting off the insurgents’ escape route.

What was once an ambush quickly became a terrible day for the enemy.

Now on the offensive, Hester and her platoon sergeant, Staff Sgt. Timothy Nein, assaulted the trench line with hand grenades and M203 grenade rounds. They cleared two trenches in this manner, and engaged dozens of insurgent fighters in small-arms fire.

In all, 27 insurgents were killed, six were wounded, and one was captured. Hester herself reportedly killed at least three of them.

For her actions that day, Hester was awarded the Army’s third-highest award for gallantry in combat, the Silver Star medal. Nein received the second highest award, the Distinguished Service Cross. The platoon medic, Spc. Jason Mike, also received a Silver Star.

Hester is one of the most combat-decorated women in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  In fact, she’s the first woman to receive the Silver Star since World War II. Only one other woman has received the award since 9/11, Spc. Monica Lin Brown in 2008 for actions in Afghanistan.

Hester’s award is a testament to the blurred and undefined front lines in counter-terrorism and counterinsurgency operations.

"Your training kicks in and the soldier kicks in," Hester said when she received the award, according to a U.S. Army report. "It's your life or theirs ... You've got a job to do — protecting yourself and your fellow comrades."

U.S. Army Photo by Spc. Jeremy D. Crisp

On Nov, 10, 2004, Army Staff Sgt. David Bellavia knew that he stood a good chance of dying as he tried to save his squad.

Bellavia survived the intense enemy fire and went on to single-handedly kill five insurgents as he cleared a three-story house in Fallujah during the iconic battle for the city. For his bravery that day, President Trump will present Bellavia with the Medal of Honor on Tuesday, making him the first living Iraq war veteran to receive the award.

In an interview with Task & Purpose, Bellavia recalled that the house where he fought insurgents was dark and filled with putrid water that flowed from broken pipes. The battle itself was an assault on his senses: The stench from the water, the darkness inside the home, and the sounds of footsteps that seemed to envelope him.

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(U.S. Army/Pvt. Stephen Peters)

With the Imperial Japanese Army hot on his heels, Oscar Leonard says he barely slipped away from getting caught in the grueling Bataan Death March in 1942 by jumping into a choppy bay in the dark of the night, clinging to a log and paddling to the Allied-fortified island of Corregidor.

After many weeks of fighting there and at Mindanao, he was finally captured by the Japanese and spent the next several years languishing under brutal conditions in Filipino and Japanese World War II POW camps.

Now, having just turned 100 years old, the Antioch resident has been recognized for his 42-month ordeal as a prisoner of war, thanks to the efforts of his friends at the Brentwood VFW Post #10789 and Congressman Jerry McNerney.

McNerney, Brentwood VFW Commander Steve Todd and Junior Vice Commander John Bradley helped obtain a POW award after doing research and requesting records to surprise Leonard during a birthday party last month.

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(U.S. Marine Corps/Staff Sgt. Andrew Ochoa)

Editor's Note: This article by Gina Harkins originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

Hundreds of Marines will join their British counterparts at a massive urban training center this summer that will test the leathernecks' ability to fight a tech-savvy enemy in a crowded city filled with innocent civilians.

The North Carolina-based Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines, will test drones, robots and other high-tech equipment at Muscatatuck Urban Training Center near Butlerville, Indiana, in August.

They'll spend weeks weaving through underground tunnels and simulating fires in a mock packed downtown city center. They'll also face off against their peers, who will be equipped with off-the-shelf drones and other gadgets the enemy is now easily able to bring to the fight.

It's the start of a four-year effort, known as Project Metropolis, that leaders say will transform the way Marines train for urban battles. The effort is being led by the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory, based in Quantico, Virginia. It comes after service leaders identified a troubling problem following nearly two decades of war in the Middle East: adversaries have been studying their tactics and weaknesses, and now they know how to exploit them.

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(Reuters/Carlos Barria)

WASHINGTON/RIYADH (Reuters) - President Donald Trump imposed new U.S. sanctions onIran on Monday following Tehran's downing of an unmanned American drone and said the measures would target Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Trump told reporters he was signing an executive order for the sanctions amid tensions between the United States and Iran that have grown since May, when Washington ordered all countries to halt imports of Iranian oil.

Trump also said the sanctions would have been imposed regardless of the incident over the drone. He said the supreme leaders was ultimately responsible for what Trump called "the hostile conduct of the regime."

"Sanctions imposed through the executive order ... will deny the Supreme Leader and the Supreme Leader's office, and those closely affiliated with him and the office, access to key financial resources and support," Trump said.

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