Perhaps one of the most feared battle situations for any soldier is a well-laid ambush in an urban setting. Then-Pvt. Broadwell and her team came face-to-face with that situation on Oct. 16, 2003, on the mean streets of Karbala, Iraq.
Tensions in Karbala had been heating up for some time, and the sense of danger seemed almost palpable. Broadwell’s military police company was patrolling side streets that day to make sure citizens were obeying a weapons ban. Broadwell was a few streets away when gunfire erupted and a call for help went out over the radio. Broadwell’s team rushed to the trapped unit and found themselves in the middle of a concerted attack from multiple directions.
Broadwell stood atop her Humvee’s turret, but she was too short to see through the weapon’s eye hole. She instead relied on tracer rounds to target her fire accurately. And accurate she was: without her quick trigger, several U.S. troops would not have made it out of the death trap alive – because, as one lieutenant later told The Washington Post, “She was up there doing what we trained her to do as a gunner… She kept [the enemies’] heads down.” She did so even as explosions landed in front of her vehicle, and constantly threw her back. Each time she got back up and continued firing off quick, methodical, deadly bursts. A number of soldiers were awed by her calm demeanor.
The firefight was over nearly as quickly as it had begun. Broadwell and the rest of her MP unit are credited with having eliminated at least 20 enemy fighters. For her actions, Broadwell was awarded the Bronze Star with a “V” for Valor in the fall of 2003.