Over 250,000 Army women have served in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. During the past decade Army women have reached the highest echelons of Officer, Non-Commissioned Officer and Warrant Officer ranks and have demonstrated their ability to adapt and change as the Army has.
General Gordon R. Sullivan, Chief of Staff of the Army from 1991 to 1995, said:
“The defense of our nation is a shared responsibility. Women have served the defense of this land for years before our United States was born. They have contributed their talents, skill and courage to this endeavor for more than two centuries with an astounding record of achievement that stretches from Lexington and Concord to the Persian Gulf and beyond.”
Pentagon stone recovered from the 9-11 attacks
The events on September 11, 2001 would forever change our nation. It would also further change the understanding of the role of women in the Army. This piece of the Pentagon, recovered in the following months after the attack, reminds us of the ultimate sacrifice of those whose lives were taken that day. It stands as a testament to the will and courage of all those who in the following decades continue to combat global terrorism.
Palm Sunday Ambush-Raven 4-2
Raven 42 captures the story of a firefight that took place outside Baghdad on March 20, 2005.
Responding to an attack by Iraqi insurgents on a convoy of 30 tractor trailer trucks moving coalition supplies, a squad of ten soldiers from the 617th Military Police Company, Kentucky National Guard, repelled the ambush. Inserting themselves between the convoy and the enemy, the vastly outnumbered soldiers of Raven 42 responded with .50 cal machine guns and Mark 19 grenade launchers. Under heavy fire, the squad leader, Staff Sergeant Timothy Nein, and the team leader, Sergeant Leigh Ann Hester, dismounted from their HMMVWs, moved toward the enemy and began clearing the trench line. The advancing sergeants, armed with M-4 rifles, M-203 grenade launchers, and 9mm pistols, cleared the trench while the rest of the team supported from the rear with .50 cal machine guns, the M-249 SAW (Squad Automatic Weapon), and AT-4 rocket launchers while repelling a counter attack. At the end of the 25 minute firefight, three of the American soldiers were wounded and 24 insurgents were killed.
The squad was heavily decorated for their actions, and SGT Leigh Ann Hester won the Silver Star. This was the first Silver Star to be awarded to a woman since World War II and the first Silver Star in American history to recognize a female Soldier for combat action.
Complexity of War and All-Female Teams
The nature of the battlefields of the last decade of war has created specific needs—in particular the creation of all-female teams. The work of the women, serving alongside their male counterparts were created specifically to engage local women, who could not be approached by male soldiers because of cultural norms.
The missions of Army women on Female Engagement Teams, Cultural Support Teams and Provincial Reconstruction Teams include: community engagement; assessment of needs; search and seizure; security and removal of threats; information gathering and medical outreach. The success of these missions helped lay the groundwork for extraordinary changes in policies regarding where women can be assigned and the type of jobs they can hold.
Memorial Kiosk and Dog Tag Tree
American women serve our nation with courage and loyalty. The museum's memorial kiosk, which contains the information about the more than 125 Army women killed in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, is a testament to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. Senator Robert Dole said, “On the one hand, war represents the ultimate failure of mankind. Yet it also summons the greatest qualities of which human beings are capable; courage beyond measure, loyalty beyond words, sacrifice and ingenuity, and endurance beyond imagining.” Our fallen women represent each of these characteristics and more.