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Medal of Honor Recipient Ryan Pitts
Former Army Staff Sergeant Ryan Pitts is the ninth living recipient of the United States' highest award for valor from the War in Afghanistan, receiving his medal on June 21, 2014 for extraordinary heroism in combat operations near Wanat Village, Kunar Province in July 2008.
Staff Sergeant Ryan Pitts joined the Army in 2003 under the delayed entry program, at the age of 17. He attended basic training and advanced individual training at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma before attending the U.S. Army Airborne School at Fort Benning, Georgia. From there, Pitts was 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.
While assigned to the 173rd, Pitts deployed twice to Afghanistan. His first deployment in 2005 lasted 12 months. His final deployment spanned 15 months beginning in 2007. Pitts departed the active-duty Army in 2009.
His civilian education includes a Bachelor of Arts degree in Business from the University of New Hampshire at Manchester, and his military education includes the U.S. Army Airborne School, U.S. Army Pathfinder Course, and the Warrior Leader Course. He currently resides in Nashua, New Hampshire, where he is in business development for the computer software industry.
Staff Sergeant Pitts' awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal w/ "V" Device, Purple Heart, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal w/ "V" Device and three Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters, Army Achievement Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal with Bronze Clasp and two Loops, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with Two Campaign Stars, Global War on Terrorism Medal, Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon with Numeral "4", NATO Medal, Presidential Unit Citation, Valorous Unit Award, Combat Action Badge, Pathfinder Badge and Parachutist Badge.
Interviewer Paul Herbert is the Executive Director of the First Division Museum at Cantigny. He is a retired colonel of the United States Army, a professor of military studies at the National War College, and an assistant professor of history at The U.S. Military Academy.
medal of honor Citation
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty:
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.
Early that morning, while Sergeant Pitts was providing perimeter security at Observation Post Topside, a well-organized Anti-Afghan Force consisting of over 200 members initiated a close proximity sustained and complex assault 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. 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. Unable to stand on his own and near death because of the severity of his wounds and blood loss, Sergeant Pitts continued to lay suppressive fire until a two-man reinforcement team arrived. Sergeant Pitts quickly assisted them by giving up his main weapon and gathering ammunition all while continually lobbing fragmentary grenades until these were expended. At this point, Sergeant Pitts crawled to the northern position radio and described the situation to the command post as the enemy continued to try and isolate the Observation Post from the main Patrol Base. With the enemy close enough for him to hear their voices and with total disregard for his own life, Sergeant Pitts whispered in radio situation reports and conveyed information that the Command Post used to provide indirect fire support.
Sergeant Pitts' courage, steadfast commitment to the defense of his unit and ability to fight while seriously wounded prevented the enemy from overrunning the observation post and capturing fallen American soldiers, and ultimately prevented the enemy from gaining fortified positions on higher ground from which to attack Wanat Vehicle Patrol Base.
Sergeant Ryan M. Pitts' extraordinary heroism and selflessness above and beyond the call of duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, Company C, 2d Battalion (Airborne), 503d Infantry Regiment, 173d Airborne Brigade and the United States Army.