Ashley's War

  • by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
  • Narrated by Kathe Mazur
  • 10 hrs and 6 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

From the author of the New York Times best seller The Dressmaker of Khair Khana comes the poignant and gripping story of a groundbreaking team of female American warriors who served alongside Special Operations soldiers on the battlefield in Afghanistan - including Ashley White, a beloved soldier who died serving her country's cause.
In 2010 the US Army Special Operations Command created Cultural Support Teams, a pilot program to put women on the battlefield alongside Green Berets and Army Rangers on sensitive missions in Afghanistan. The idea was that women could access places and people that had remained out of reach and could build relationships - woman to woman - in ways that male soldiers in a conservative, traditional country could not. Though officially banned from combat, female soldiers could be "attached" to different teams, and for the first time women throughout the army heard the call to try out for this Special Ops program.
In Ashley's War, Gayle Tzemach Lemmon uses exhaustive firsthand reporting and a finely tuned understanding of the complexities of war to tell the story of CST-2, a unit of women hand-picked from across the army, and the remarkable hero at its heart: 1st Lt. Ashley White, who would become the first Cultural Support Team member killed in action and the first CST remembered on the Army Special Operations Memorial Wall of Honor alongside the Army Rangers with whom she served.
Transporting readers into this little-known world of fierce women bound together by valor, danger, and the desire to serve, Ashley's War is a riveting combat narrative and a testament to the unbreakable bonds born of war.
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and a contributor to The Atlantic's Defense One. She is the best-selling author of The Dressmaker of Khair Khana and writes regularly for leading media outlets. A Fulbright scholar and Robert Bosch Fellow, she began reporting from conflict regions during MBA study at the Harvard Business School following nearly a decade covering politics at ABC News.

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A Diamond Among Diamonds

I haven't slept much since I downloaded Gayle Tzemach Lemmon's "Ashley's War: The Untold Story of a Team of Women Soldiers on the Special Ops Battlefield" (2015) three days ago. It's no more disturbing than 'Mark Owen' and Kevin Maurer's "No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission that Killed Osama bin Laden" (2012), and it's definitely less disturbing than Helen Thorpe's "Soldier Girls: The Battles of Three Women at Home and at War" (2014). The reason I haven't slept so well is that the writing and narration of "Ashley's War" is so good I didn't want to turn it off. It's the Audible equivalent of "I couldn't put it down."

There's a rough balance between Afghan women and American female soldiers. The majority of Afghan women are illiterate, married by age 16, have an average of 5 children, and live in family compounds carefully screened from the world (source: United Nations). In a world so small, they are the observers and family preservers.

In contrast, American women are more educated than their husbands, if they choose to marry; average fewer than 2 children each (source: Pew Research, UN); and are free to travel wherever their talents and money can take them. American women have been informally serving as soldiers since 1775, and formally a part of the Army since World War I.

The Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) - the Army Rangers and Navy SEALS of legend -badly needed the intelligence that Afghani women had. Tribal mores meant that those women would not speak to men. They would, however, talk to female soldiers. General Stanley McChrystal, who graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1976 - the same year women were first admitted - encouraged development of what became CSTs - Cultural Support Teams.

CSTs are teams of women "enablers" attached to Army Rangers or Green Berets to facilitate questioning AfghanI women and children. Female soldiers volunteer and then are selected for modified Ranger training because they are physically capable of matching those elite soldiers, and they are chosen for assignments because they are mentally capable of doing the job.

"Ashley's War" is the story of the first of the CSTs. "Ashley" is Lt Ashley White (Stumpf) one of the best of the best. Lt. White and the other female soldiers who became CSTs didn't ask for special treatment - all they asked was for the chance to prove they could do the job. And they did. Lemmon's writing was so vivid, it was like being set in a ruck march at Ft. Bliss.

The U.S. Armed Services didn't officially allow women in combat MOS's (Military Occupational Skills) until 2013. The CSTs were and are there ahead of time. Personally, I was surprised to find myself with a bitter taste of jealousy underlying the pride I feel in those soldiers . I served from 1982 to 1986, and I would have loved to have the same opportunity. I doubt even at my fittest I could have made the cut, but I had friends that surely could have. And oh, just to have had the chance . . .

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- Cynthia "Always moving. Always listening. Always learning. "After all this time?" "Always.""

Warriors

I am a Vietnam vet who worked over 30 years in Law enforcement. I've seen my fair share of true warriors and it is not defined by gender but by heart. The women in the this book should make us all proud of our wives and daughters and never sell them short. The book is extremely well written and engrossing.
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- Debora J. Watson

Book Details

  • Release Date: 04-21-2015
  • Publisher: HarperAudio