Leigh Ann Hester

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Leigh Ann Hester
Leigh Ann Hester on February 3, 2007 (cropped).jpg
Hester visiting the U.S. Army Women's Museum at Fort Lee in February 2007.
Born (1982-01-12) 12 January 1982 (age 38)
Bowling Green, Kentucky, U.S.
Allegiance United States
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service2001–2009, 2010–present
RankArmy-U.S.-OR-07.png Sergeant first class
Unit617th Military Police Company
269th Military Police Company[1]
Battles/warsIraq War
War in Afghanistan
Hurricane Maria response
AwardsSilver Star
Army Commendation Medal
Other workLaw enforcement officer

Leigh Ann Hester (born 12 January 1982)[2] is a United States Army National Guard soldier. While assigned to the 617th Military Police Company,[3] a Kentucky Army National Guard unit out of Richmond, Kentucky,[3] Hester received the Silver Star for her heroic actions on 20 March 2005 during an enemy ambush on a supply convoy near the town of Salman Pak, Iraq.[4]

Hester is the first female U.S. Army soldier to receive the Silver Star since World War II and the first ever to be cited for valor in close quarters combat.[5]


Hester waits to receive her Silver Star medal during a military awards ceremony at Camp Liberty, Iraq in June 2005.
Hester after receiving her Silver Star medal during a military awards ceremony at Camp Liberty, Iraq in June 2005.


Hester enlisted in the U.S. Army in April 2001.

In Iraq,[3] Hester's military police squad, consisting of eight men and two women in three Humvees, were shadowing a 30-truck supply convoy when approximately 50 insurgent fighters ambushed the convoy with AK-47, RPK machine gun fire, and rocket propelled grenades (RPG). The squad moved to the side of the road, flanking the insurgents and cutting off their escape route. Hester maneuvered her fire team through the kill zone and into a flanking position, where her squad leader, Staff Sergeant Timothy F. Nein, and she assaulted a trench line with hand grenades and M203 grenade launcher rounds. Nein and Hester assaulted and cleared two trenches. During the 25-minute firefight, Hester killed 3 insurgents.[6]

When the battle was over, 27 insurgents were dead, six were wounded, and one captured. Sergeants Nein and Hester were both awarded the Silver Star.[3][6] Nein's medal was later upgraded to the Distinguished Service Cross.[7]

Also awarded the Silver Star in this ambush was Specialist Jason Mike, a platoon medic who took up and simultaneously fired an M4 carbine and M249 SAW light machine gun in defense of his comrades.[6]

Hester later transferred to the Tennessee Army National Guard.[1]

Hester took a brief break from the U.S. Army in 2009, and worked as an officer for a civilian law enforcement agency in a Nashville, Tennessee suburb. However, she returned to the military a short while later, in late 2010.[3][8]


From 2012 to 2014, she served as an instructor at the 117th Regional Training Institute Military Police School. In 2014, she deployed to Afghanistan for 18 months as a Cultural Support Team member.[9][10][11] Hester has since been promoted to the rank of sergeant first class.[9] In 2017, Hester deployed to Saint Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands as part of the response to Hurricane Maria. Hester's military police company provided law enforcement support to the U.S. Virgin Islands Police.[12]

Awards and decorations[edit]

Combat Action Badge
Silver Star
Army Commendation Medal
National Defense Service Medal
Afghanistan Campaign Medal
Iraq Campaign Medal
Armed Forces Reserve Medal
NCO Professional Development Ribbon
Army Service Ribbon

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "On the Cover" (PDF). VolState Guard. Tennessee National Guard. March 2012. Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 April 2013. Retrieved 27 January 2013.
  2. ^ "Free Family Tree, Genealogy and Family History - MyHeritage". www.familytreelegends.com.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Hester". Women in the U.S. Army. United States Army. 31 August 2012. Retrieved 27 January 2013.
  4. ^ "50 Heroes for 50 States – U.S. Department of Defense Update". United States Department of Defense. Retrieved 30 December 2006.
  5. ^ Sergeant Sara Wood. "Female Soldier receives Silver Star in Iraq". Department of Defense. Retrieved 16 March 2011.
  6. ^ a b c Steve Fainaru (26 June 2005). "Silver Stars Affirm One Unit's Mettle". Washington Post. Retrieved 27 January 2013.
  7. ^ Doubler, Michael D. (2008). The National Guard and Reserve: A Reference Handbook. Contemporary Military, Strategic, and Security Issues. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 135. ISBN 9780275993252. Retrieved 27 January 2013.
  8. ^ Martin, Rachel (22 February 2011). "Silver Star Recipient A Reluctant Hero". NPR. Retrieved 23 February 2011.
  9. ^ a b Cowan, Jill (29 August 2015). "Franklin Silver Star recipient talks women in military". The Tennessean.
  10. ^ "Franklin Silver Star recipient talks women in military".
  11. ^ "Female Silver Star recipient returns to Franklin PD".
  12. ^ Mondale, Arthur (12 October 2017). "National Guard MPs and SFs fight criminal activity post-hurricane". The Pentagram. US Department of Defense. Retrieved 23 January 2018.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]