A former Army staff sergeant is receiving the Medal of Honour today for his heroics during one of the deadliest battles of the U.S. campaign in Afghanistan.
Staff Sergeant Ryan Pitts spent an agonizing 90 minutes fighting off an enemy force of more than 200 fighters that was trying to overrun the Observation Post (OP) Topside and Vehicle Patrol Base Kahler in Wanat, Afghanistan, the Army Times reports.
Pitts, along with 29 paratroopers from 2nd Battalion’s Chosen Company, five combat engineers, a Marine Corps embedded training team, and 24 Afghan soldiers, moved into the outskirts of Wanat village to form a new post. They were joined by six mortar men and a three-man TOW missile team.
On July 13, 2008, a Taliban force attacked the post in Wanat. Almost immediately, the TOW system was destroyed and all of the soldiers in OP Topside were either wounded or killed.
“It was just a barrage of RPGs, and it was very disorienting,” Pitts told the Army Times.
In the first volley of the attack, Pitts was peppered with shrapnel and suffered a deep wound to his right thigh. Rendered incapable of walking, Pitts continued to beat back the enemy advance by crawling to areas that most needed his assistance.
“I couldn’t exactly stand, so I would pull myself up to my knees and physically pull my leg up to a kneeling position and start firing,” Pitts said. “I’d blind fire, spraying along the rock, and once I thought I had laid down enough suppressive fire, I’d pop up and try to take out whatever I could.”
Crucially, Pitts maintained radio contact between the OP and the command post as the battle progressed, warning of enemy movements. After fighting for over an hour despite being critical wounded, Pitts was medically evacuated.
Were Pitts not present at the Battle of Wanat, the outcome would have been significantly different.
“He prevented the enemy from overrunning the OP and thus saved lives and prevented the loss or capture of fallen and wounded paratroopers,” Col. Bill Ostlund, Pitts’ battalion commander, told the Army Times.
Myer has also credited Pitts as being the “lynchpin” that enabled the U.S. to retain control of the area.
Pitts was medically discharged from the Army in 2009. He has dedicated his upcoming Medal of Honour to the nine soldiers who died during the battle.
“I feel a responsibility to tell our story, because there are nine guys that can’t,” Pitts said.
Pitts will be the 16th Medal of Honour recipient for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Here’s Pitts discussing his experience that day:
h/t Rick Maze
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