Recent Reads: Ashley’s War: The Untold Story of A Team of Women Soldiers on the Special Ops Battlefield

Blog Post 64 Recent Reads by Oneras

Photo courtesy of and Oneras

As a writer, I also do a lot of reading.  Much of it is fiction, especially in the suspense genre, but I also do some non-fiction reading on  occasion as research.  The information I glean from those books plays into my own work.

I found out about Ashley’s War: The Untold Story of a Team of Women Soldiers on the Special Ops Battlefield quite by accident.  While visiting the CNN website, I stumbled across a review of the book online.  While I don’t remember the headline, the content made an impression on me because I immediately bought the book.  I figured it’d help me immensely in crafting stories.

In Ashley’s War, Gayle Tzemach Lemmon follows the journey of a group of young women in the Army who volunteer for a unique combat unit called the Cultural Support Teams (CSTs).  These units served alongside Special Operations soldiers from the Army and Navy as they fought the insurgency in Afghanistan.

Joint Special Operations Command realized that they had a problem.  While fighting in Afghanistan, US Army Green Berets and Rangers as well as Navy SEALs had no access to half of the Afghan population since Afghan culture severely restricts contact between women and unrelated males.  Because of this, they couldn’t glean invaluable intelligence from the women, discover hidden caches of weapons in the women’s quarters, or search for insurgents disguised as women.  When the call came down, women from many units of the Army responded.

The assessment and selection process tested the women with the same standards used by men seeking to join a special operations unit.  The training was as hard and came a lot quicker.  The rigors of the battlefield remained the ultimate test.

Tzemach Lemmon’s precise reporting and clean writing clears the way toward understanding how significant the CSTs were in clearing the final hurdles of women entering into all positions in the Army.  She interweaves the history of women in the Army; the rationale that led the commanders within Special Operations Command to their decision; and the inherent need for women in the role of the CSTs into a strong braid of information that challenges to reader to reconsider long-held beliefs about women in combat.

Books usually generate one of three responses in me.  The first may be that I struggled to get through it and would never recommend it to friends.  The second is where I think about the book for a few hours and suggest that friends read it.  Or third, the book changes the way I look at certain things.  Ashley’s War easily falls into that last category.  While I knew that women were capable of serving with our special operations units, it confirmed that women have already done so.  Their passion and zeal to serve alongside their brothers-in-arms blew me away.

Thanks to their hard work, as of January of this coming year, most, if not all, of the special operations units within the armed forces will be open to women—provided they can meet the physical rigors of training.  These women will have Ashley, her cohorts, and other trail-blazing women to thank for this opportunity.

I have not received any compensation for writing this post.  I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services I have mentioned.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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