Rhonda L. Cornum embarked on a combat search a rescue mission to recover an Air Force pilot shot down over Iraq during Desert Storm in February of 1991, The UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter she was aboard crashed as a result of Iraqi anti-aircraft fire.
Being one of only three survivors from the eight-member crew, Major Cornum was captured and taken prisoner by the Iraqi Republican Guard. Suffering two broken arms, a severely damaged leg, and gunshot and shrapnel wounds in her shoulder and head, she survived imprisonment behind Iraqi enemy lines. She wrote her experiences and published the book 'She Went to War: The Rhonda Cornum Story'.
On March 6, 1991, she was repatriated and one of only two women POWs from the Gulf war. Although U.S. law prohibited women from serving in combat roles, her experiences and open dialogue as a POW helped pave the way for continued Congressional expansion of military women in combat roles.
She became the first medical officer to graduate Air Command and Staff College and was also the first female commander of Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Germany, leading medical treatment for over 26,000 injured Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.
Awards and Decorations:
The Distinguished Service Medal
The Legion of Merit
The Distinguished Flying Cross
The Bronze Star, Purple Heart
POW Medal and others for her service