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Raven 42

It was Palm Sunday, and two U.S. convoys were about to converge at a crossroads 30 miles south of Baghdad. The two had almost met when they were struck by one of the largest groups insurgents ever to attack a convoy. The stretch of road was guarded by the 617th Military Police Company, from Richmond, Kentucky. Mobilized on October 2, 2004, once in Iraq the MPs organized into squads. The 4th Platoon's 2nd Squad, 10 men and women in three armored High-Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles, operated as "Raven 42." Raven 42 had already skirmished with the insurgents, so squad leader SSG Timothy Nein had drilled them intensively.

Both convoys were under heavy attack and the insurgents were closing in when Raven 42 heard the firing. The three HMMWVs returned fire as they raced to an access road, where they too came under heavy fire. As a round knocked his gunner unconscious, SSG Nein turned and saw 28 men getting out of seven cars near a berm. With two MPs wounded already, Nein called for reinforcements and air support - and went on the offensive.

Many of the enemy were firing from a nearby trench. Nein called to his vehicle commanders, SGTs Leigh Ann Hester and Dustin Morris, firing from behind the berm, to bring an M203 grenade launcher. Hester was closer; under fire, she raced for the weapon and jumped into the trench. With Morris covering, Nein and Hester moved down the trench. The M203 was ineffective at such close range, so the two alternated lobbing grenades and firing their M48. Minutes later Nein and Hester were finished clearing the trench; 24 insurgents were dead, 9 wounded and one captured. Three contractor drivers from the convoys were dead, and handcuffs found on enemy corpses indicated plans to kidnap more.

Later this spring, Specialists William Haynes, Casey Cooper and Ashley Pullen received Bronze Stars for valor. Medic Jason Mike received the Silver Star, as did SGT Hester and SSG Nein. Pullen and Hester were the first women in U.S. history to receive medals for valor in actual combat; Nein's Silver Star was later upgraded to the Distinguished Service Cross. All of the men and women of Raven 42 exemplify the great combat heritage of the National Guard.