Ashley’s War was a biography of Ashley White, a young woman who became a combat soldier as part of the Cultural Support Teams, a secret pilot program to insert women alongside Special Operations soldiers battling in Afghanistan. A few of the men who commanded raids in Afghanistan realized that they were unable to gain information from the women in the homes they raided. A solution became having women soldiers as part of the raid to disarm the women and interact with them. The presence of female soldiers in that role was important to the mission given that Afghanistan custom prevented male soldiers from searching females or speaking to them.
Ashley was truly a heroic and determined young woman who was excited about the opportunity to participate in combat. She was fortunate to have a husband who supported her career goals and shared her excitement about her involvement in the armed forces. The author also told about several other women who were in the same program as Ashley. She gave quite a bit of background on all of these women, which at time was just too much. I think the main reason she brought those women into the book was because she needed their experiences to add to the length. Whether or not it was representative of Ashley’s involvement, there were only a few stories of Ashley actually being in combat. The rest were about the experiences of the other women.
To enter the program, the woman had to apply be selected and then pass a rigorous training. Still I was disturbed to read how unprepared these women were to engage in actual combat. One woman described how her team spent too much time at a home and lost the opportunity to be picked up by a helicopter when the sun went down. That meant they had to hoof it back to a base several miles away, which require they pass through a town inhabited by the enemy. She watched as her male counterparts used tactics she had very little training on. She was proud of herself that she was able to quickly adapt to these tactical maneuver and keep up with the men, but I found the entire situation deplorable on the part of the military for sending her into such a situation without the proper training.
The story was interesting but the execution was a little on the weak side for me. To begin with, the book was filled with information that gave a comprehensive look at the military, but also was a bit overwhelming going over the background of too many people who were not integral to the story. Near the end, once the focus returned to Ashley, this really became a touching story of valor and courage.