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book review: "Ashley's War'....

Wednesday, May 25, 2016
...by Gayle Lemmon. The subtitle is the 'Untold Story of a Team of Women Soldiers on the Special Ops Battlefield'. This is the same author who wrote another book I recently read  (The Dressmaker of Khar Khana) and reported on about a family living in Kabul who taught themselves to sew, and turned their skills into a cottage industry. Siblings who began making clothing to support themselves and extended family. They were forced by the authorities to stay at home, could not continue with education, or be employed outside the home, not allowed to hold jobs, but  hidden from view when the Taliban came into power. True and amazing story of resilience, creativity, ingenuity and perseverance.

This newest book is one I heard the author talking about at an event at the Infantry Museum several weeks ago. I requested the book from the library and found the one about the Afghan family, so read it first. Just received "Ashley's War" the end of last week and finished it yesterday. Lemmon has done in depth personal interviews and research, and written a very readable, well documented story. I knew things would end badly, as Ashley is one of the first women to be killed in the Afghan war.

But her story is one that really resonates. Reading about Ashley and other young women who volunteer for the Army, in the Guard or Reserves or active duty. Then volunteer to undergo rigorous training to master necessary skills to be deployed with Special Forces on night raids trying to locate and capture insurgents. The women were  trained at Ft. Bragg in NC as members of a new concept: Cultural Support Team. Designed to go with SpecOps teams and SEALS into villages and homes of local citizens in search of information, explosives, and Taliban supporters.

The Army realized they were not able to investigate, interact with half the population when the men on the SpecOps teams could not meet with or talk to the women in the villages. And over time realized what a vital source those families could be if they could question the women in the compounds they were searching. They developed the program and plan to train capable, battle ready females to accompany the teams, along with interpreters who could help question and gain intel. to help find insurgents and keep soldiers safe.

Ashley was killed on a night raid, by an IED. The story leading up to her death tells about what an amazing woman she was, and what a huge impact her life made on family, fellow soldiers, other women in the CST program. There was almost no information provided to the American public about this CST program before her death, so even her parent were not aware of what she was doing. But her death brought the program out into the open, and caused the Army and DOD to provide details about how these young female soldiers were having such a huge impact in the War on Terrorism.

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