WASHINGTON, June 16 (UPI) -- The Army awarded the first Silver Star for bravery in combat to a female soldier in the Iraq war Thursday.
Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester, 23, of Bowling Green, Ky., won the award for "exceptionally valorous achievement." The convoy her military policy company was escorting came under attack March 20 by insurgent forces armed with AK-47s, machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades.
Hester, a team leader for 617th Military Police Company out of Richmond, Ky., led the counterattack, the official citation said.
"Sgt. Hester maneuvered her team through the kill zone into a flanking position where she assaulted a trench line with grenades and M203 rounds.
"She then cleared two trenches with her squad leader where she engaged and eliminated three (anti-Iraqi forces) with her M4 rifle. Her actions saved the lives of numerous convoy members."
Staff Sgt. Timothy Nein, 36, of Louisville, and Spc. Jason Mike, 23, of Radcliff, also won the Silver Star for their actions in the same firefight. Five other soldiers from the same Kentucky National Guard unit were also decorated.
The unit is assigned to Baghdad where it is responsible for route security, convoy security and where it supports two Iraqi Highway Patrol stations. Fifteen of the 617th MP Company soldiers have received 17 Purple Heart Medals.