The Story of the All Female Unit That Served with SOF

Ashley's_War_book_coverGayle Tzemach Lemmon, author of Ashley’s War, a book on the women who served with Special Operations Forces in Afghanistan, is speaking Monday, May 18, 2015 at 3:30 pm at the Port Tampa Library,  4902 West Commerce Street, Tampa, FL

Good Reads calls Ashley’s War “a gripping story of a groundbreaking team of female American warriors who served alongside Special Operations soldiers on the battlefield in Afghanistan—including Ashley White, a beloved soldier who died serving her country’s cause.”

Lemmon’s discussion is sponsored by the Women In International Security Florida WIIS. It will be followed by a book signing.

In Ashley’s War, Lemmon uses on-the ground reporting and a finely tuned understanding of the complexities of war to tell the story of 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 Cultural Support Team 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.

Lemmon also shared details about the book during an interview with National Public Radio in April. You can listen to that interview here. She also authored the New York Times bestseller, The Dressmaker of Khair Khana.

The author is also scheduled to appear a the US Special Operations Command celebration of the Global SOF (Special Operations Forces) Foundation One Year Anniversary Celebration at the Tampa History Center at 7 pm on Monday, May 18, 2015.

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Investigtion into Special Ops Helicopter Crash That Killed 38

On August 6th, the headlines were filled with news of the deaths of 30 U.S. Forces – 22 Navy SEALs and Navy Special Ops support personnel, 8 Air Force and Army personnel – when their CH-47 helicopter crashed in Wardak Province, Afghanistan. Seven Afghan soldiers, an interpreter and a military working dog also were killed in the crash.

The CH-47 Chinook was carrying an Immediate Reaction Force – a secondary force – that was called in to help with a mission to capture or kill an Afghan who was the senior Taliban leader in Tangi Valley.

The U.S. Central Command investigative report into that incident was released Wednesday. It confirms that insurgents fired a rocket-propelled grenade hitting the rear rotor blade causing the crash as the helicopter neared its combat landing zone.

The CENTCOM report by Brigadier Gen. Jeffrey Colt offered several findings including:

The investigation determined that operational planning and execution were consistent with previous missions, and that the forces and capabilities were appropriate given the agility required to maintain pressure on insurgent networks.

Each crewmember was fully qualified to perform the aircrew duties to which he was assigned.

There was no evidence of a pre-planned ambush, but rather the result of the enemy being at a heightened state of alert due to more than 3 hours of ongoing coalition air operations.

The investigation did disclose a “noteworthy” aspect that the intelligence gathering aircraft overhead were not relocated during the ongoing mission and prior to the arrival of the second IRF team in the Chinook helicopter. It further states better synchronization is needed between the use of intelligence gathering aircraft overhead and the helicopters carrying special operations forces to a mission site.

ISAF Strikes Taliban Linked to Downing Special Forces

The following is an ISAF Joint Command News Release:

KABUL, Afghanistan – Coalition forces killed the Taliban insurgents involved with the recent downing of the CH-47 helicopter, with a precision airstrike in Chak District, Wardak province, Aug 9.

The strike killed Taliban leader Mullah Mohibullah and the insurgent who fired the shot associated with the Aug. 6 downing of the CH-47 helicopter, which resulted in the deaths of 38 Afghan and coalition service members.

Mullah Mohibullah was a key facilitator in an insurgent attack cell led by Din Mohammad, a Taliban leader killed in a previous special operations mission. As a leader in Mohammad’s network in Tangi Valley, Mohibullah had as many as 12 Taliban fighters under his command, including potential suicide bombers.

On the night of the crash, the inbound CH-47 carried special operations forces intended to pursue insurgents from Mohammad’s network that were fleeing an engagement in which six militants had already been killed. While it has not been determined if enemy fire was the sole reason for the helicopter crash, it did take fire from several insurgent locations on its approach.

After an exhaustive manhunt, special operations forces located Mullah Mohibullah and the shooter after receiving multiple intelligence leads and tips from local citizens. The two men were attempting to flee the country in order to avoid capture.

The security force located and followed the insurgents to a wooded area in Chak District. After ensuring no civilians were in the area, the force called for the airstrike which resulted in the deaths of the Mullah Mohibullah, the shooter, and several of their Taliban associates.

The security force assesses no civilians were harmed during the strike.

The International Security Assistance Force website.

An Army Mom Prays with Each Military Death

This is author Tracie Ciambotti's favorite photo of her son Josh. A glance at it helps her recall the closeness and strength of his hug.

I joined the Military Families Ministry group in Pennsylvania for a workday Saturday; we packed 20 boxes of snacks and personal care items to send to one of our heroes–a Marine deployed in Afghanistan.

My brother called and asked if I had seen the news; words a military mom never wants to hear when her son is deployed.  I could feel the dread coming over my body as I said “No, I haven’t heard any news, please don’t tell me soldiers have died”.  He told me 31 were killed in Afghanistan but had no details.

These are the worst days for military families with a deployed loved one.  The first thought is always, Oh God, please not him – let him be okay.  The tears come next as the mind wanders to the questions: What if it is him? How long till we know? Have the bodies been recovered? I cried.  Then, I prayed for all the families that were about to receive that horrific knock on the door and ask God to give me the strength I will need if I am one of those families.

I soon learned that all of those killed were special forces and mixed emotions took over.  I felt relief that my son was alive but felt guilty that I was relieved.  The sadness continues to overwhelm me as I think about the mothers who received the devastating news that it was their son.

Americans go back to their weekly routines today and thoughts of the news that shocked our nation on Saturday fade away.  I awoke this morning and the first thought that entered my mind was of the mothers and fathers, spouses and children, brothers and sisters that are starting this week without a loved one that died serving our country and ensuring my freedom.  I cried. Then, I prayed as I do every morning that God will protect my son today.

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