160 U.S. service members who are female have died in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. In contrast 8 service women died in the eight years of the Vietnam War.
117 were lost before the prohibition of women serving in combat units was issued in January 2013. More than 800 were wounded in Afghanistan or Iraq with many of them wounded before the ban was lifted.
Thank goodness that the combat soldier does what he/she must do to survive ban or no ban.
Monica Lin Brown’s story, on going, is a great example.
It was dusk on April 25, 2007, when Brown, a medic from the 82nd Airborne Division’s 782nd Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, was on a routine security patrol along the rolling, rocky plains of the isolated Jani Khail district in Afghanistan’s Paktika province when insurgents attacked her convoy.
“We’d been out on the mission for a couple of days,” said Brown, who at the time was attached to the brigade’s 4th Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment’s Troop C. “We had just turned into a wadi (empty river bed) when our gunner yelled at us that the vehicle behind us had hit an (improvised explosive device).”
The soldiers looked out of their windows in time to see one of the struck vehicle’s tires flying through the field next to them. Brown had just opened her door to see what was going on when the attack began.
“I only saw the smoke from the vehicle when suddenly we started taking small-arms fire from all around us,” she said. “Our gunner starting firing back, and my platoon sergeant yelled, ‘Doc! Let’s go.’”
Brown and her platoon sergeant, Staff Sgt. Jose Santos, exited their vehicle, and while under fire, ran the few hundred meters to the site of the downed Humvee.
“Everyone was already out of the burning vehicle,” she said. “But even before I got there, I could tell that two of them were injured very seriously.”
In fact, all five of the passengers who had stumbled out were burned and cut. Two soldiers, Specialists Stanson Smith and Larry Spray, suffered life-threatening injuries.
With help from two less-injured vehicle crewmen, Sgt. Zachary Tellier and Spc. Jack Bodani, Brown moved the immobile soldiers to a relatively safe distance from the burning Humvee.
“There was pretty heavy incoming fire at this point,” she said.
“Rounds were literally missing her by inches,” said Bodani, who provided suppressive fire as Brown aided the casualties while injured. “We needed to get away from there.”
Attempting to provide proper medical care under the heavy fire became impossible, especially when the attackers stepped up efforts to kill the soldiers.
“Another vehicle had just maneuvered to our position to shield us from the rounds now exploding in the fire from the Humvee behind us,” Brown said. “Somewhere in the mix, we started taking mortar rounds. It became a huge commotion, but all I could let myself think about were my patients.”
With the other vehicles spread out in a crescent formation, Brown and her casualties were stuck with nowhere to go. Suddenly, Santos arrived with one of the unit’s vehicles and backed it up to their position, and Brown began loading the wounded soldiers inside.
“We took off to a more secure location several hundred meters away, where we were able to call in the (medical evacuation mission),” Brown said.
She then directed other combat-life-saver-qualified soldiers to help by holding intravenous bags and assisting her in preparing the casualties for evacuation.
After what seemed like an eternity, Brown said, the attackers finally began retreating, and she was able to perform more thorough aid procedures before the helicopter finally arrived to transport the casualties to safety.
Two hours after the initial attack, everything was over.
There is more of her story in Thirteen Soldiers: A Personal History of Americans at War by Senator John McCain and Mark Salter.
* A 68W is the Army MOS for a Health Care Specialist.