ASHLEY’S WAR: The Untold Sotry of a Team of Women Soldiers on the Special Ops Battlefield

ASHLEY’S WAR: The Untold Story of a Team of Women Soldiers on the Special Ops Battlefield focuses on the all-Army, all-women team recruited in 2011 to serve on the battlefield alongside special operations on some of the most critical — and most dangerous — missions of the Afghan war – all while the combat ban remained in place. It is a team story about valor, courage, friendship born in battle, and the bonds shared by troops who served at the tip of the spear — these soldiers believed deeply in serving America in the most valuable way possible, and they proved themselves out there on combat operations, night in and night out, alongside some of the most elite forces in the U.S. military – including Army Rangers and Navy SEALs.  They are an incredible group of women in these pages– hand picked from across the Army after a tough selection process for a mission in which they would need to interact with Afghan women in the heat of battle.

The book is a story not only of recent military history, but of the shape of the future force.  And it is about the team of leaders helping to redefine the hero story.  Ashley’s War was also just chosen by Amazon editors as one of its “Best Books of the Year So Far” in both History & Biography.

Media coverage highlights below:

Further Background: In 2010, the U.S. Army Special Operations Command launched a pilot program to put women on the battlefield alongside Green Berets, Army Rangers, and Navy SEALs on sensitive nighttime 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 they remained officially banned from combat, female soldiers could be “attached” to different teams, and for the first time, women throughout the Army, National Guard and Reserves heard the call to try out for this special ops program that would show them the kind of combat seen by less than five percent of the entire U.S. military. Each had her own story, her own reason for wanting to, as the recruiting poster advertised, “be part of history,” serving alongside America’s finest fighters.  

In Ashley’s War, Gayle tells the story of Cultural Support Team (CST-2), a unit of women hand-picked from the Army, and the remarkable hero at its heart: 1st Lt. Ashley White, who would become the first CST member killed in action and honored on the Army Special Operations Memorial Wall of Honor alongside the men of Ranger Regiment with whom she died on mission. She would also become the first female to be remembered on the National Infantry Museum’s Memorial Walk, though women still today cannot officially serve in the infantry. But that’s changing.

In 2013 Defense Secretary Leon Panetta lifted the ban on women in ground combat.  A few months later when the question arose as to whether women would be allowed to become Rangers and SEALs in their own right, the example of the women featured in “Ashley’s War” – the women who served on the Cultural Support Teams  — was cited as an instructive lesson. “Quite frankly, I was encouraged by just the physical performance of some of the young girls that aspire to go into the cultural support teams,” Maj. Gen. Bennet Sacolick of special operations command said in a June 2013 Pentagon press conference about the opening of combat roles to women. “They very well may provide a foundation for ultimate integration.”

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