There are lots of studies focusing on the benefits of young girls who play with female action figures. Think Katniss Everdeen, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the equally confident version of Snow White in Snow White & The Huntsmen. But alongside these fictitious women of action are the fictional women of wits who also fight battles with a non-physical approach. Using their intellect, intuition and insight, these women “catch the bad guys” all the same. The immensely popular character of Carrie Mathison in the multi-award winning Homeland series combats the secret web of international affairs primarily with her gusto moves and endless wit.
Women can be powerful on both sides of the combat equation, and it is up to our generation to keep acknowledging their contributions and illustrating how they control their situations with skill and strength under extreme circumstances. Not because they are women who happen to be soldiers, but because they are soldiers who happen to be women.
Their actions are not special because of their gender, but their gender does make their actions worth acknowledging in order to bring mainstream awareness to the significance of women in our military system. As of the latest Pentagon research, only 14.5% of active military is female. It’s imperative for young girls to realize military service is an option for them–one that can bring them a great deal of pride and accomplishment.
We turn to three of these women warriors and their respective combat honors. Three women who would have Charlie’s Angels taking notes…
1. Sergeant Leigh Ann Hester – is an Army National Guard soldier out of the Kentucky unit who is the first female U.S. army solider to receive the Silver Star since World War II and the first to be cited for valor in close quarters combat. The Silver Star is the third-highest military decoration for courage. When the enemy ambushed a U.S. supply convoy in Iraq, a then 23-year-old SGT Hester led her team through the kill zone and organized them for a side attack position, where she assaulted a trench line with grenades. She and her squad leader, Staff Sergeant Timothy F. Nein, then assaulted and cleared two trenches. She also killed at least three enemy soldiers with her rifle. When the battle was over, 27 rebels were dead, six were wounded, and one captured. In part, her citation reads that her actions “saved the lives of numerous convoy members.”
SGT Hester told the American Forces Press Service that she didn’t have time to be scared when the fight began. “Your training kicks in and the soldier kicks in,” Hester says. “It’s your life or their's. … You’ve got a job to do—protecting yourself and your fellow comrades.”
Her soldier’s instinct has given her a permanent place in U.S. history and is literally “one for the books”.
2. Army Specialist Monica Lin Brown – is a United States Army medic who was the first woman to receive the Silver Star in Afghanistan (and the second to receive the honor since World War II). Monica saved the lives of her fellow soldiers by running through heavy gunfire to reach the burning wreckage of their Humvee, which had been hit by an IED (improvised explosive device). When rounds of ammunition from the truck started exploding, Monica used her own body as a shied to get the wounded men to safety. Both soldiers she saved had suffered life-threatening injuries. Once she was able to get the injured to a more stable area, she continued rendering aid until medical evacuation. Both soldiers survived their injuries. Talk about the face of danger. We think Monica got a good look at it and said, “Let’s go.”
3. Chief Warrant Officer Lori Hill - is the first military woman to be awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for heroism. In March 2006, Lori was piloting the lead helicopter as security for two grounded convoy vehicles on patrol in a small village in Iraq.
On the way they ran into a concentrated attack with rocket propelled grenades and machine gun fire. Lori was able to draw the fire away from the lead helicopter, and establish communication with the ground troops, thus providing suppressive fire from the air until they reached safety. When a rocket-propelled grenade hit her helicopter, it damaged her instrumentation but instead of focusing on her own dire predicament, she continued to provide back up assistance for the ground troops. When machine gun fire sprayed her helicopter, one bullet hit her in the foot. Her aircraft was losing transmission power, as well as hydraulics, which prevented the helicopter from hovering, a crucial maneuver for landing. So, with a damaged aircraft and injury, she made an emergency landing at a nearby operating base, saving her crew and the aircraft. They say it’s good to be quick on your feet, but we’d have to agree Lori has quick thinking on lock up in the clouds.
Presently, Pentagon policy prohibits women from serving in frontline combat roles. But the landscape of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, allow for no real front lines, thus women such as our three warriors to watch are taking part in close-quarters combat more than previous wars –and getting a chance to show what they can do and shine for it. We are proud of your selflessness, skill and service ladies!