New York Times best selling author Gayle Tzemach Lemmon will be speaking next month as part of the Leadership Lecture Series at the National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center.
Lemmon, who wrote “Ashley’s War: Untold Story of a Team of Women Soldiers on the Special Ops Battlefield,” is scheduled to speak here on April 14. Her talk, which begins at 6 p.m., coincides with the release of “Ashley’s War” in paperback. The book was published last year by HarperCollins, and Fox 2000/Reese Witherspoon won the film rights.
Lemmon spent a great deal of time in Columbus, Phenix City and Fort Benning during 2013 and 2014 researching “Ashley’s War.”
“It has come full circle for me,” Lemmon said Monday. “I spent so much time there talking to folks. It is really nice to come back there and share it since Fort Benning has become such a big part of the story.”
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Ashley White was part of what the Army termed a Cultural Support Team. They were quietly assembled and specially trained to work with the Joint Special Operations Task Force in Afghanistan. The women were there to do what the men couldn’t do on the raids into enemy compounds: gain useful information from Afghan women and children.
On Oct. 22, 2011, White, a member of the North Carolina National Guard, was killed in Afghanistan’s Kandahar Province while on a raid with the 75th Ranger Regiment.
“Ashley’s War” was a backdrop for the gender-integration discussion in the U.S. Armed Forces last year. It was referenced as Capt. Kristen Griest, 1st Lt. Shaye Haver and Maj. Lisa Jaster became the first women to pass Ranger School last year. Throughout the integration of Ranger School, Army leaders were insistent that women already were in combat.
After passing Ranger School, Haver wrote a blurb about “Ashley’s War” for the Wall Street Journal.
“Sometimes reading about others’ accomplishments and sacrifices is exactly what I need to fully commit to my own,” Haver wrote. “Chris Kyle in ‘American Sniper’ reminded me that soldiers on the ground keep us as Americans safe — we rely on them to be better than anyone else in the world at their craft. It’s not often these silent professionals tell their stories. They defend us with their lives, and we owe them our best.”
Haver said she was entranced by “Ashley’s War.”
“Never before have I been so connected to people I’ve never met,” she wrote. “The women of the Cultural Support Teams that Ms. Lemmon writes about took a chance against all odds and stepped out into the unknown to give their best for love of their country. Some made the ultimate sacrifice.”
Lemmon will be introduced by Col. David Fivecoat, commander of the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade based at Fort Benning.
Lemmon also wrote the bestseller “The Dressmaker of Khair Khana.” She will sign books beginning at 5 p.m. in the lobby of the National Infantry Museum. There will be a reception following the speech.