July 6, 2015
“Make no mistake about it. These women are warriors.”
The man who shared these words was among the most tested special operations leaders of the post-9/11 wars, Lt. Gen. John Mulholland.
And he was speaking of Ashley White-Stumpf and her sisters-in-arms who were part of an all-women team recruited, trained and deployed to serve alongside special operations on the battlefield in Afghanistan in 2011 while the combat ban remained very much in place.
Battlefield necessity drove the creation and then the recruitment of this all-star band of sisters –women who met as teammates, became friends and ended their deployment as family.
This group of 55 women – 20 of whom served alongside Army Rangers and Navy SEALs and other special operations teams on nighttime combat operations — went to war as part of Cultural Support Team 2 after answering the call to serve issued by a U.S. Army Special Operations Command recruiting poster urging “Female Soldiers. Become A Part of History.”
For these young women all they had ever wanted was a chance to serve a cause greater than themselves. To complete a mission that mattered. To work with the best of the best and to test their limits on America’s behalf.
These new teams for which only the best would be selected would put women on special operations missions to help U.S. forces could do something that men alone could not in this conservative, traditional country: talk with Afghan women.
The idea was for servicewomen to fill the security gap that the strict separation of the sexes so frequently seen in Afghanistan created, and to allow U.S. and Afghan forces to access people and places and information that had previously been out of reach.
The wars America is fighting are changing. And so are the people recruited to serve on their front lines.
The women who answered that call to “become part of history.”
serving from Alabama to Alaska and many points in between – raised their hands not to prove a point, but to serve with purpose.
Patriotism, not politics, motivated them to go out each night on their nation’s behalf alongside Rangers and SEALs, some of whom were then on their 10th, 11th, 12th deployment in America’s post-9/11 wars.
For these young women all they had ever wanted was a chance to serve a cause greater than themselves.
To complete a mission that mattered.
To work with the best of the best and to test their limits on America’s behalf.
From Kate, a West Pointer who played high school football to Amber, an intel officer who served in Bosnia and had once helped the FBI bust drug gangs to Ashley White, a Kent State grad married to her ROTC sweetheart who loved to cook and bake andloved to ruck march for miles and bust out 25 or 30 pull-ups from a dead hang.
As we pause to celebrate America’s foundations and to remember those who fought valiantly for the nation’s independence, let us also take a moment to celebrate the future force ready to defend the nation come what may. And that force is, increasingly, filled with women like Ashley White and her teammates.
In the Gulf War of 1991 more than 40,000 women went to war for the U.S. By this last decade’s conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, that number had climbed more than seven-fold to close to 300,000.