WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama will award the Medal of Honor on July 21 to former Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Pitts for conspicuous gallantry in Afghanistan, White House officials announced June 23.
Pitts will receive the Medal of Honor at the White House for his courageous actions while serving as a forward observer with 2nd Platoon, Chosen Company, 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, during combat operations at Vehicle Patrol Base Kahler, near Wanat Village in Afghanistan’s Kunar province, on July 13, 2008. He will be the ninth living recipient to be awarded the Medal of Honor for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Pitts and his team were part of Operation “Rock Move,” meant to transfer remaining forces and capability from Combat Outpost Bella to a new location on the outskirts of a village called Wanat. The new position was Vehicle Patrol Base Kahler. COP Bella was to be closed.
The mission was expected to be the last for the Soldiers before returning home — they’d been in Afghanistan for 14 months.
On the morning of July 13, at about 4 a.m., Pitts was manning Observation Post Topside, east of the main base and east of a bazaar and hotel complex in Wanat.
Shortly after, Soldiers conducting surveillance identified potential insurgents. They put together a request for fire. But before that could happen, at about 4:20 a.m., soldiers heard machine-gun fire from the north. After that, the valley erupted in enemy fire.
Soldiers at OP Topside were hit with small-arms fire, rocket-propelled grenades and hand grenades. Pitts and six other paratroopers at OP Topside were injured in the initial volley of enemy fire. Two paratroopers were killed. Pitts took grenade shrapnel in both legs and his left arm.
For more than an hour after, Pitts continued to fight and defend his position and his teammates, despite his injuries.
Throughout the battle, despite the loss of blood and severity of his wounds, Pitts’ incredible toughness, determination, and ability to communicate with leadership while under fire allowed U.S. forces to hold the observation post and turn the tide of the battle.
Without his ability to stay alert and fight while critically wounded, the enemy would have gained a foothold on high ground and inflicted significantly greater causalities onto the vehicle patrol base, and the enemy could have been in possession of the fallen Soldiers at the observation post.
Nine Soldiers — Spc. Sergio Abad, Cpl. Jonathan Ayers, Cpl. Jason Bogar, 1st Lt. Jonathan Brostrom, Sgt. Israel Garcia, Cpl. Jason Hovater, Cpl. Matthew Phillips, Cpl. Pruitt Rainey, and Cpl. Gunnar Zwilling — were killed in the battle.
Pitts separated from the Army on Oct. 27, 2009, from Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He lives in Nashua, New Hampshire, where he works in business development for the computer software industry.
He enlisted in the Army in August 2003 as a fire support specialist, primarily responsible for the intelligence activities of the Army’s field artillery team. After completion of training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and follow-on parachutist training at the U.S. Army Airborne School, Fort Benning, Georgia, he was assigned to Camp Ederle, Vicenza, Italy, as a radio operator with the 4th Battalion, 319th Field Artillery Regiment and 173rd Airborne Brigade, where he deployed to Afghanistan.
His final assignment was with the 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment “The Rock,” 173rd Airborne Brigade, as a forward observer, which included a second combat tour to Afghanistan.
His personal awards include the Bronze Star Medal with “V” device for valor, the Purple Heart, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Army Commendation Medal with three bronze oak leaf clusters, the Army Achievement Medal, the Army Good Conduct Medal with bronze clasp and two loops, the National Defense Service Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal with two campaign stars, the Global War on Terrorism Medal, the Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon, the Army Service Ribbon, the Overseas Service Ribbon with numeral 4, the NATO Medal, the Presidential Unit Citation, the Valorous Unit Award, the Combat Action Badge, the Pathfinder Badge and the Parachutist Badge.
Pitts will be joined by his family at the White House ceremony, officials said.
(Army News Service contributed to this report.)