Ryan M Pitts MOH

b. 01/10/1985 Lowell, Massachusetts.

DATE OF MOH ACTION: 13/07/2008 Wanat Village, Kunar Province, Afghanistan.

Ryan M Pitts MOH

Pitts was born on October 1, 1985, and grew up on a farm in Nashua, New Hampshire. By his own admission, he was an uncoordinated child who wasn’t good at sports and wasn’t sure what he wanted to do after high school. So, instead of burdening his family with the cost of college, he decided to enlist in the Army’s delayed entry program in January 2003 when he was just 17.

Pitts spent several years headquartered in Camp Ederle, Italy. He deployed twice to Afghanistan: for a year in 2005 and again for 15 months beginning in 2007 with the 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry, 173rd Airborne Brigade. It was during that second deployment that all hell broke loose in the Waygal Valley region of Kunar Province, where his unit, 2nd Platoon, Chosen Company, was responsible for security.

In mid-July 2008, the company was involved in Operation Rock Move, the final mission of their deployment. Pitts’ unit, a few Marine Corps mentors and some Afghan soldiers were supposed to reposition forces from Combat Outpost Bella to a new post nicknamed Vehicle Patrol Base Kahler. It was on the outskirts of tiny Wanat village, which initially welcomed the troops. The goal: disrupt militant trafficking in the valley and set the stage for effective regional economic and security improvements.

Early on July 13, then-Sgt. Pitts and eight other paratroopers were at the new post providing perimeter security at Observation Post Topside, an area of higher ground that could watch over the village and serve as the post’s eyes and ears. In the predawn darkness, they noticed potential insurgents not too far away.

As a fire support specialist, Pitts was about to request indirect fire support from VPB Kahler when, suddenly, more than 200 insurgents started firing rocket-propelled grenades, machine guns and small arms. They had infiltrated the town and set up firing positions and weapons caches all around the main base. The 48 U.S. service members at the post were outnumbered. Some of the insurgents, who were hiding in a brush-filled creek bed just to the north of where Pitts and his crew were, began lobbing grenades at them in an effort to isolate Topside from the main base. All of the men on Topside were killed or injured, including Pitts, who suffered serious shrapnel wounds. Another soldier had to help him staunch the bleeding from a leg wound with a tourniquet.

Pitts had lost a lot of blood and couldn’t stand, but he knew they couldn’t give up Topside to the insurgents. He took control and fired back as the enemy moved closer. Pulling pins in grenades, he would wait until the last second to throw the explosives so they would detonate immediately and couldn’t be tossed back. He also continued to fire a machine gun until two soldiers from the main base down the hill came to his aid. Pitts traded them his machine gun for an M4 with a mounted grenade launcher and continued his counterassault. But soon, he realized he was all alone on Topside — everyone else had died or been forced to move off the hill.

Pitts crawled to Topside’s northern radio position and described what was happening to commanders. The insurgents were just on the other side of a sandbag wall from him — so close that the men on the other end of the line could hear their voices. But Pitts kept firing grenades and whispering information to the command post, which they could use to help him with indirect fire support. Four more men tried to come to Pitts’ rescue, but all were wounded and one died. Soon after that, U.S. forces sent in air strikes, turning the tide of the battle. The close-air support knocked out the insurgents assaulting Topside long enough for more soldiers to get there and secure it.

Eventually, other reinforcements made it to the town and began clearing enemy positions. Pitts and the other wounded men were flown out as the remaining troops continued fighting for several more hours until Topside and VPB Kahler were once again secure.

Pitts’ courage and commitment kept the insurgents from overrunning the observation post, which would have given them a vantage point to inflict major damage on the main base and capture any soldiers within it. Unfortunately, his unit paid a heavy price. Nine soldiers died during the battle: 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. After the fight, it was clear to mission leaders that the villagers in Wanat, who had initially welcomed them, had betrayed their trust. Within a few days, Chosen Company moved out.

Pitts left the Army in 2009 and got his bachelor’s degree from the University of New Hampshire at Manchester. He moved back to his hometown, where he works in business development and lives with his wife and son.

On July 24, 2014, Pitts received the Medal of Honor from President Barack Obama during a White House ceremony. He is one of 13 living recipients to have fought in Afghanistan. “Against that onslaught, one American held the line,” Obama said during the ceremony, noting that Pitts was “just 22-years old, nearly surrounded, bloodied but unbowed.”

“Valor was everywhere that day,” Pitts told reporters after the ceremony. “And the real heroes are the nine men who made the ultimate sacrifice so the rest of us could return home. It is their names, not mine, that I want people to know.”

Since earning the Medal of Honor, Pitts has rung the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange, returned to Italy to visit paratroopers in his former unit and he’s spoken at length to various groups about his experiences in Afghanistan.



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 in the 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 the 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.