Capt. Lindsay GordonHeislersmilitary career started with soccer.
Growing up in Houston in a big sports family, Heisler focused on playing soccer in high school. Her grandfather served in the military and retired as a major general, but neither of her parents were in the military.
It wasnt until after Heisler received an email from a West Point coach inviting her to a recruiting visit at the Military Academy in New York that joining the Army became an option she couldnt pass up. It also became a decision thatultimately led her to being recognized by her alma mater for heroic actions-- she says she was just following her training -- while in Afghanistan as an Apache helicopter pilot in 2015.
It was soccer that got me to West Point, she told Fox News on Friday. Once I got there, its ultimately the Army and the opportunity to serve my country that kept me there.
Heislergraduated from the academy in 2012 and reported to her first duty station at Fort Rucker, Ala. She then went to Fort Campbell, Ky.
In Alabama,Heisler trained to become an Apache pilot, which appealed to her because of the mission, she said.
When youre going through flight school, they say choose your aircraft based on what its designed to do,Heisler explained. The attack mission appealed to me. It was an opportunity to protect Americans on the ground in enemy territory.
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One night while deployed to Afghanistan in December 2015, a routine mission quickly turned into a situation where American soldierson the ground came under enemy fire as they were being picked up by Chinook choppers.
Heislerand her team did exactly what they were trained to do.
Heisler immediately began communicating with forces on the ground and other helicopters, and she and her co-pilot began to fight back, according to the Army. While coming under fire, they placed themselvesbetween the ground force and the incoming fire and worked to keep the enemies heads down long enough for the Chinooks to land, pick up the Rangers and takeoff.
The attack -- which the team later learned came from eight different enemy positions -- lasted about three minutes.
In that moment, specifically on that night during that mission, when everything started happening and rounds started flying, we werent thinking about anything other than acting based on our instincts and what we had trained for years, she said. Luckily we were able to do our job, and we did it well enough to where we didnt lose any American lives.
We were thankful we had the opportunity to go do our jobs, and we did it well, she added.
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Not a single American was killed that night. Heisler was later awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for her bravery. The medal is given for heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight.
Heislersaid it wasnt just her actions that saved lives that night -- it was the work of an entire team.
From the Rangers on the ground to the Chinook pilots to my Apache team, it was a team effort across the entire night and mission, she said.
Heislerwas recognized by West Point, which honored her on Thursday with the2019 Alexander R. Nininger Award for Valor at Arms. The award was created in 2006 and is presented by the West Point Association of Graduates.
Heisleris the first female to receive the award. It was humbling and a bit of a surprise, she said.
While she is alsohonored to inspire female service members, shes not solely a female soldier -- shes just a soldier, Heisler said.
If Ive been able to inspire just one female, thats definitely something to be proud of, she said. With that said, I dont see myself as a female soldier. I see myself as just a soldier whos trying to do my job to the best of my ability for the Americans on the ground that I support.
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Heisleris now stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C., where she serves as company commander of Delta Company in the1st Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division. She and her husband will move to Germany in March to be stationed there.B: