This piece is in remembrance of a female leader who was lost Nov. 1, 2007. 2nd Lt. Tracy Lynn Alger was the distribution platoon leader, Forward Support Company, 3-187 Infantry Regiment.

I am Capt. Rick Hawkins. I served alongside Tracy in our battalion at Forward Operating Base Dragon in Iraq. Tracy arrived to 3rd Battalion 187th Infantry Regiment, also known as the "Rakkasans" this past January after completing all her military training, and she became our Distribution Platoon Leader. We started dating in February, and I loved Tracy very much, but I wasn't the only one. Our entire battalion loved Tracy.

She clearly meant the world to her family and friends in Wisconsin, and I want to tell you all how much she meant to her unit, the Rakkasans. Tracy was a platoon leader in charge of 40 Soldiers. The 800 men and women in our battalion are scattered across 11 different patrol bases and battle positions and spread out over a 150 square mile area. Every one of these 800 Soldiers counted on Tracy and her platoon to supply them with water, food, fuel, and ammunition. If any of the infantry platoons in our battalion are taken out of action, it means that there is less of a presence in sector, less patrols, less missions. But if Tracy's platoon is taken out of action, the fighting stops altogether.

Tracy knew how important her platoon was to the battalion, and that her platoon was vital to our battalion's ability to fight. From the moment she arrived in January, she started building her platoon from the ground up to get it ready for combat. I've been in this battalion for three years, and I can honestly say that the platoon that Tracy took over was the worst in the battalion. They couldn't be counted on to leave on time for a mission and the distribution platoon had no rehearsed plan on what to do if it made contact with the enemy.

When Tracy showed up she put a stop to that. She was not afraid to put her foot down and keep her platoon at work until it was ready for the next mission. She used every opportunity to train her platoon until it was proficient with its battle drills. She worked relentlessly to put systems in place to ensure that her platoon always brought the right supplies, on time, every time. She trained until the lowest private knew what to do if the platoon encountered a roadside bomb, how far to set out the cordon, how to ensure it had 360 degree security, and what reports to call up to higher headquarters. When Tracy deployed with her platoon Sept. 20, her Soldiers were ready for combat, thanks to Tracy.

Lt. Col. Rohling, our battalion commander, rated all 33 lieutenants in our battalion from one to 33. Competition among lieutenants in an infantry battalion is stiff, but Tracy, the only female officer, was ranked number one of 33. Tracy's performance was phenomenal; she was the best. No leader in our battalion was more devoted to his Soldiers, and no one was more personally driven to succeed.

I've told many of you about the time this summer when Lt. Col. Rohling took all 55 or so officers in our battalion on a grueling 15-mile foot march. The temperatures were in record highs at Fort Campbell, Ky., that week. It was humid, and there wasn't a single cloud in the sky or any shade along the road that we marched. We had to wear the full uniform, with assault pack, body armor, helmet gloves, sunglasses, elbow pads, knee pads--it was very restrictive and heavy. One by one the officers fell out of the road march, unable to go on requiring IVs to rehydrate them.

By the end of the 15 miles, we only had one third of the officers we started with, and yeah, Tracy was at the head of the pack. She was simply amazing. The only reason I finished is I didn't want Tracy to think I was weak and dump me, otherwise I would've thrown in the towel. Everything that Tracy did was not only good and satisfactory, it was the best.

Nov. 1, Tracy's platoon was the main effort for our first battalion mission. She was tasked with bringing the barrier materials to set up a battle position that the Iraqi Army would man in the most dangerous part of our sector.

She didn't have to go out on that mission. She had a capable platoon sergeant that was perfectly able to lead her Soldiers, but she knew it was dangerous and insisted on going herself. Tracy knew that her command vehicle stuck out in the middle of the convoy and plainly marked her as the leader, but she was not afraid.

With a stoic resolve she inspired nothing but confidence in her Soldiers. She accomplished her mission, and set up a sniper tower, barriers, and concertina wire, and the Iraqi Army manned the battle position. On her way back her vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb. She accomplished her mission, and her sacrifice has made it safer for all the other Soldiers in our battalion, and made it safer for her platoon which has to travel through that area. She is a hero.

Tracy was a loving daughter, a devoted friend, an excellent Army officer, and a true Christian. Tracy is a hero. We're here to celebrate Tracy's life, but our lives will not be the same without her. We love you, Tracy.