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Ashley's War: The Untold Story of a Team of Women Soldiers on the Special Ops Battlefield Hardcover – April 21, 2015
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“An unforgettable story of female soldiers breaking the brass ceiling. The women who answered America’s call to serve show that our military is stronger when it engages both halves of the population. This book will inspire you and remind you of the power that comes with defying limits.” (Sheryl Sandberg, author of Lean In)
“Gayle Tzemach Lemmon expertly gives readers an inside look at what it takes to work alongside America’s elite forces. The book is a gripping, moving, and well-told war story, but more importantly it offers the first glimpse into a historic program.” (Kevin Maurer, author of Gentlemen Bastards)
“Lemmon has done her homework. . . . She is a strong and capable guide. . . . With a fine eye for detail, she shows us what set this program apart.” (Foreign Policy)
“A tremendous story. . . . Very moving.” (The Daily Show with Jon Stewart)
“Ashley’s War shares the remarkable stories of one of the first teams of women serving in the U.S. Army Special Operations Command. This team forged the path for American women who serve in harm’s way all over the world and continue to make the ultimate sacrifice.” (Senator John McCain)
“Ashley’s War quietly grips the reader with the untold story of a small group of women selected to serve in combat alongside the US’s best soldiers. . . . Rich storytelling. . . . Compelling. . . . In battle as in life, these women refuse to quit.” (Christian Science Monitor)
“Fascinating and often moving, Ashley’s War follows one of the early groups of women who volunteered to serve alongside special operations soldiers, vividly portraying their training, their early missions as they learn their jobs, their bonds of friendship, and their reckoning with the toll of war. Remarkable.” (Phil Klay, author of Redeployment)
From the Back Cover
In 2010 the U.S. Army Special Operations Command created Cultural Support Teams, a pilot program to put women on the battlefield alongside Army Rangers, Green Berets, Navy SEALs, and other special operations teams 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, the National Guard, and the Reserves heard the call to join male soldiers on special ops missions. Each had her own reason for wanting to serve alongside America's finest fighters—for wanting, as the recruiting poster advertised, "to be part of history."
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 handpicked from across the Army, and of the remarkable hero at its heart: First Lieutenant Ashley White. Lemmon reveals how First Lieutenant White and the pioneers of CST-2 worked to earn the respect of combat-tested special operations warriors and illuminates the very human stakes of their battlefield successes.
Transporting readers into the little-known world of the CSTs, a community of fierce women bound together by valor, danger, and the desire to serve, Ashley's War is a gripping combat narrative and a testament to the unbreakable bond of friendship born of war.
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CON: (these were what gave it a four star review)
1. As with author's other book, the timeline seems off. This could have easily been solved with her labeling the chapters with MM/YY. It seemed a sense of urgency was there to get the CST's on the ground but I couldn't really wrap my head around the amount of time that passed between selection and deployment. The story was energetic and emotional but this simple omission was like an itch that you can't ever get sufficiently scratched and created a constant, unnecessary distraction.
2. What? Happened? to Nadia? The interpreter was badly injured the night that Ashley died but we just simply never find out what happened after she woke up in the hospital and was told Ashley was dead. Nothing in depth but one or two paragraphs. Is she still in Afghanistan doing humanitarian work? Did SHE ever go see Ashley's parents?
3. Several of the CST's were mothers but there was never any indication of where they were leaving their children while they were deployed, or for that matter, ANY discussions of their children among themselves. Women, no matter how determined to go to war would be worried about and talk about their children, at least to some extent.
If you've ever wondered about women in the military, or about how special forces like Rangers work, this is the book for you. Or even if you have never had the slightest curiosity about these things, you'll find this book interesting, especially if you're a woman. I'm not going to spoil the ending, but the story focuses on Ashley white, who was a top athlete, and wanted to participate in really making a defference in some important role in the military. Her chance came when the US started a program for embedding women with the Rangers in Afghanistan, so that they could deal with women and children. It's a great insult to the Afghanis to have men not of the family, to be seeing or talking wo women. Hence the crucial need for a woman who could manage the rigors of the searches the Rangers did at night, but who could reassure the women and children that she was a female soldier, and would not let the men come into their sanctuary. You learn about the training, the rigors, the bonding of the women who did their training together, and took on this challenge. These are women of the highest caliber, and by the end of the book, you feel you know them intimately, going with them on mission, seeing what they do, enduiring what they endure, and being awed at their physical strength and skill. I highly recommend this book.
I also read Dressmaker of Khair Khana - with these powerful and inspiring stories, Ms. Lemmon is clearly on a mission to change the world through heroic - and true! - portrayals of women. I look forward to whatever she writes next.
Ashley was one of a special group of women who led the way onto the battlefield. This is her story, this is their story.
Gayle Lemmon did a wonderful job describing the experience these women went through preparing and competing for the honor of being chosen for this very new, very special opportunity, as well as their experience in Afghanistan.
She captured so well the essence of these extraordinary women. Their sense of duty, drive, motivations, fears, doubts, desires, loyalty, honor, commitment and resolve.
It is an eloquent argument for allowing those women, who are warriors at heart, to have the chance to serve their country on the battlefield.
And this is Ashley's story. A heartwarming and inspiring tribute to an amazing woman who gave her life for her country. How she was a trailblazer, how she was loved, and respected by her peers, both men and woman. And the difference she made, the impact she had, and the mark she left on the world.
Ashley is an American hero by any standard, and I thank Gayle Lemmon for writing this book and making us aware of this remarkable woman, group of women, and their story.