Inside Special Ops Program That Sent Women to Afghanistan Warzones

ABC's Diane Sawyer talks with the author of "Ashley's War" and comrades of fallen soldier, 1st. Lt. Ashley White.
6:39 | 04/22/15

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Transcript for Inside Special Ops Program That Sent Women to Afghanistan Warzones
Not many know what life was like for female soldiers in Afghanistan. Tonight, we're getting a glimpse inside their world. Male and female soldiers alike are confronted with a unique challenge in a Muslim country. That's where this elite group of women came in. Tonight, Diane sawyer brings us the untold story of a brave band of sisters. In the night in the rugged desert of Afghanistan, something most Americans did not know. Female soldiers teaming up in combat Zones with the best of the best. They were tall, they were short. The common denominator was athletic, fierce, and absolutely determined. She has written a book about the women responding to the call to make history. Emily miller, former platoon leader in Iraq. I have always wanted to serve. I wanted to prove I could be valuable out there. And Ashley white, a quiet young newlywed. She was always the quiet one from the day she was born and she always had strengths that amazed us. First test for all of them, physical. The brutal training known as 100 hours of hell. We would workout three times a day. Tested to the limits of human endurance 20 miles a day carrying 40 pounds. We were carrying all sorts of objects. And what about that debate, whether a woman has the strength to move a fallen comrade? Could you? If I lacked at something, if I had a weakness, one of the girls always could make up for that weakness. And together, you're stronger. Absolutely. Than even you know. Yeah, absolutely. And surprise, the tiny 5'2"=ml Ashley white who aced the toughest test of all, fast-roping, astonishing the men by using only her arms, not even needing her feet. Female soldiers about to be sent in because of the cultural differences abroad. Special operations forces couldn't search women inside their homes, even though the women held many secrets. There were also circumstances in which there were weapons buried underneath the house? Sometimes beneath the women. The phrase, you know, how to say, I'm a woman, don't be afraid. I would call out to them. That would put them at ease right off the bat. The Marines pioneered the idea to have women do it. But for women to do it, it required their hair. Just so show that we were women. We would take off our helmet once the compound was secure and kind of let our hair down. To be able to make that connection. Let them see we were women. Not readily obvious we were women. That was really important to gain their trust. And among them, the girl called the megatron quiet blonde. She was a wife, she was a daughter. She had a soft side, but she wasn't afraid to be feminine and be a warrior at the same time. They are ready with a mission so secret they could not even talk to their families. What did you think she was going away to do? We thought she was going away to set up medical tents and take care of the women and children of Afghanistan. Never knowing her daughter and the other women and the team were heading out night after night. I remember, I ran out of the bird and all I could see, taste, was just dust. Just all around me. So heavy that I couldn't even find the area where I needed to be to rendezvous with the team. Then, October 2011, Ashley on a routine mission when suddenly the nightlights up like Roman candles. What they walked into was basically a booby trapped compound. Another soldier stepped on an ied. It claimed her life and the lives of two rangers and it was the first time a lot of Americans learned that these women had also been there in the dark. It was surreal. Not possible that the heart of a -- No. Yeah, didn't seem possible. It was how a mother learned it too. First we learned is when they brought her home. At Dover air force base. What was the last thing you said to her? I told her to be careful. And she hugged me and she says, mom, I want the best of the best, I'm going to be fine. I'll be home quicker than you know. This here is the combat action badge. Ashley's room in Ohio. Her mother keeps her hat and combat boots. We liked it when it came home because it still smelled like Ashley. When the community heard, they poured into the streets to salute a valiant warrior. To this day, her band of sisters keep the memory of a time when they showed everyone how women answer the call. In the army asked for women to do this mission, she felt the need to say, send me. And I think that that level of selflessness is kprieextraordinary and uncommon. I've never been with a group of women like this accomplishing a mission like this that was so important with the best of the best. So what is courage? I think courage is being afraid and doing it anyway. It's doing the thing that you're afraid of, tackling it and going forward and never ever settling for things that are easy. Always taking the hard route over the easy one. I'm Diane sawyer for "Nightline" in New York. Ashley's war is in bookstores today. For more of the interview, you can visit

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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