Ryan Pitts is a former United States Army soldier and is the ninth living recipient of the Medal of Honor from the War in Afghanistan.
Pitts received the Medal of Honor for his actions under enemy fire in Afghanistan on July 13, 2008, during which he held off an enemy attack despite being critically wounded. Nine US soldiers were killed in the battle and 27 wounded.
Profile | Staff Sergeant Ryan Pitts | Medal of Honor Recipient | The United States Army | Courtesy www.army.mil
Staff Sgt. Ryan Pitts joined the US Army in 2003, at the age of 17 under the delayed entry program. He attended basic training and advanced individual training at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma.
Pitts then went to the US Army Airborne School at Fort Benning, Ga., before being assigned as a radio telephone operator for the 4th Battalion, 319th Field Artillery Regiment and 173rd Airborne Brigade at Camp Ederle, Italy from 2004-2005.
He remained headquartered at Camp Ederle as part of the 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Abn. Bde. from 2006 to 2009.
Pitts served twice in Afghanistan, first in 2005 and again in 2007, as a Forward Observer with 2nd Platoon, Chosen Company, 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade.
His military education includes the US Army Airborne School, US Army Pathfinder Course, and the Warrior Leader Course.
Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Pitts joined the Army in 2003 at age 17. Source: www.army.mil
Sergeant Ryan M. Pitts was awarded the Medal of Honor by the President of the United States, Barack Obama.
Sergeant Ryan M. Pitts distinguished himself by extraordinary acts of heroism at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a Forward Observer in 2d Platoon, Chosen Company, 2d Battalion (Airborne), 503d Infantry Regiment, 173d Airborne Brigade, during combat operations against an armed enemy at Vehicle Patrol Base Kahler vicinity of Wanat Village, Kunar Province, Afghanistan on July 13, 2008.
Staff Sgt. Ryan Pitts Receives the Medal of Honor. Image source: www.youtube.com
As a 13F, Fire Support Specialist, commonly known as a forward observer, Sergeant Pitts was the team’s expert at identifying where enemy targets were located, and calling for accurate mortar or artillery fire to destroy those targets.
Early that morning, while Pitts was providing perimeter security at Observation Post Topside, a well-organized militant force consisting of over 200 members initiated a close proximity sustained and complex assault against 48 US service members using accurate and intense rocket-propelled grenade, machine gun and small arms fire on Wanat Vehicle Patrol Base.
An immediate wave of rocket-propelled grenade rounds engulfed the Observation Post wounding Sergeant Pitts and inflicting heavy casualties. All of the paratroopers at OP Topside were wounded by the first round of fire.
Sergeant Pitts had been knocked to the ground and was bleeding heavily from shrapnel wounds to his arm and legs, but with incredible toughness and resolve, he subsequently took control of the observation post and returned fire on the enemy.
As the enemy drew nearer, Sergeant Pitts threw grenades, holding them after the pin was pulled and the safety lever was released to allow a nearly immediate detonation on the hostile forces. This risky tactic prevented enemy forces from throwing the grenades back at the observation post before they detonated.
Between deploying hand grenades, Pitts called in a situation report to the company commander, then-Capt. Matthew Myer. He informed Myer of the casualties and estimated enemy locations.
In an effort to conserve hand grenades, Pitts then decided to fire the M240 Bravo machine-gun in the northern position of OP Topside. Unable to stand because of his injuries, Pitts blind-fired over the waist-high wall of sandbags to provide momentary cover, then propped himself up on his knees to continue laying down fire.
The Battle | Chosen Company | July 13, 2008 | Vehicle Patrol Base Kahler vic Wanat Village, Afghanistan | Image source: www.army.mil
Pitts was the only contact between the command post and the OP, and the only person left capable of controlling indirect fire support. While firing the machine gun in the northern position, Pitts maintained contact with Myer on the radio, directing artillery fires from FOB Blessing onto pre-planned targets around the Observation Post.
Alone and losing blood, Pitts radioed Myer to inform him that everyone at the OP was dead or gone. Myer told Pitts, he had no one to send as reinforcement for the OP.
At this point, the insurgents were in such close proximity to Pitts, soldiers at the command post and those listening on the same channel at FOB Blessing could hear enemy voices through the radio. Despite this, Pitts remained determined to bring the fight to the enemy before they overwhelmed the Observation Post.
Taking up the M-203 grenade launcher, Pitts began firing it almost directly overhead, placing grenades that would detonate just on the other side of the sandbag wall, in the draw where the enemy concealed themselves.
Soon after, attack helicopters arrived to provide close air support. Despite being nearly unconscious, Pitts continued to communicate with headquarters, providing situational awareness to Myer as he called in the first helicopter attack run to engage the insurgents to the north of the OP.
Throughout the battle on July 13, 2008, despite the loss of blood and the toll of multiple concussions, Pitt’s incredible mental and physical resilience while under fire was instrumental in maintaining control of the OP.
His actions allowed US forces time to reinforce the OP and bring in airstrikes which turned the tide of the battle. If not for his ability to be the commanders’ eyes and ears in his critically wounded state, the enemy would have gained a foothold on high ground and inflicted significantly greater casualties onto the main vehicle patrol base, and the enemy could have been in possession of seven fallen Americans.
The Chosen Few
The team fought hard for their brothers-in-arms when 200 militants attacked the fledgling base in July 2008. They battled an enemy who had the advantage in both numbers and terrain.
However, the professionalism, skill, courage, and determination of every soldier to fight as hard as possible to try and save the lives of his teammates and battle buddies won the day.
Unfortunately, the team paid a high price. At the end of the day, nine Soldiers were lost in the heated battle.
Pictured here is 2nd Platoon, Chosen Company, at Forward Operating Base Blessing, Nangalam, Afghanistan.Image source: www.army.mil
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