afghanistan war

afghanistan war

Inside 'Ashley’s War,' Story of a Special Ops Program That Put Woman in Afghanistan Warzones

4d ago
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Inside 'Ashley’s War,' Story of a Special Ops Program That Put Woman in Afghanistan Warzones There are many unsung heroes in war, but there was a team of female American soldiers who assisted Special Operations forces during the Afghanistan War that few had heard about until now. The U.S. Army Special Operations Command created a program in 2010 called the Cultural Support Teams. They were special units of female Army soldiers that were meant to build relationships with Afghan citizens as Green Berets and Army Rangers searched compounds in the rugged desert of Kandahar. In a new book, “Ashley’s War,” best-selling author Gayle Tzemach Lemmon details what these women went through in training and on these dangerous missions, focusing on 1st Lt. Ashley White Stumpf, who was among the first group of female soldiers to go into combat zones as part of a Cultural Support Team, or “CST”. Considered by many of her fellow soldiers as the ‘quiet professional’ and the ‘heart of the team,’ she was the first member of the special unit to be killed in action. At the time, women were officially banned from combat, but they could be “attached” to one of these Special Ops forces for this purpose, which meant they were inherently in the line of danger. “Women have participated in conflict for hundreds of years… but these wars are different,” said retired Gen. Peter Chiarelli, who served as the 32nd Vice Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army from 2008 to 2012. “From the time you entered in the countries of Iraq or Afghanistan, you were in harm’s way, whether you were male or female,” he explained. The “CST’s” would do essential work that the male soldiers could not: they would interface with local women and children to gather information, because in traditional Islamic culture it was considered inappropriate for men to commingle with women. “This was 2011, the combat ban was still in place,” Lemmon said. “Most of America still doesn’t know that these women were out there. So they knew that everything they did would be not just their mistake, but every female’s mistake, and so I think they worked even harder.” Capt. Meghan Curran, 28 from Chelmsford, Massachusetts, served alongside White in Afghanistan and said she was drawn to the Cultural Support Team when she first saw a flyer that said “Become a Part of History.” "It kind of drew you in, you know, with the big bold heading,” she said. “But, I don’t think that’s really what it was about for any of us,” she continued, “what it was about was the Army was asking for a certain set of women that were willing and able to do this certain mission.” “We had that bond, that sisterhood,” said Emily Miller, 28 from Evansville, Indiana, a former platoon leader in Iraq, who also served with White and Curran in Afghanistan. “I have always wanted to serve,” Miller added. “That’s why I wanted to be in the Army… and I wanted to prove that I could be valuable out there and really make a difference.” One hundred women from across the Army tried out for the program, but only half survived the brutal training known as “100 hours of hell.” “The common denominator was athletic, fierce and absolutely determined,” Lemmon said. “It’s about intensity and fierceness… and I think they all understood that.” Curran said women would workout at the gym three times a day to stay physically fit and competitive. “Girls would go workout during lunch, come back all sweaty and eat their lunch while the next class started,” she said. “Everyone knew that [physical fitness] was going to be a concern.” Their training at Fort Bragg pushed them to the limits of human endurance in suffocating temperatures. Curran and Miller said they marched about 20 miles while carrying 35 to 40 pounds of gear, which included ammo crates. They also had to practice carrying a “buddy,” or fallen comrade, out of a combat zone. “If I lacked at something, or if I had a weakness, one of the girls could make up for that weakness,” Miller said. “Som...