The mother of the only Akron-area woman killed in action in either Afghanistan or Iraq says her daughter would be “smiling down” in light of the Pentagon decision to allow women to serve in wartime combat roles.
“Finally, the rules of engagement have caught up with what the women are actually doing over there,” Deborah White said Friday.
White is the mother of Army 1st Lt. Ashley White Stumpf, 24, a Marlboro Township officer who was killed in action in Afghanistan along with two Army Rangers in a roadside bombing Oct. 22, 2011.
Stumpf, a Marlington High School and Kent State University graduate, volunteered out of a North Carolina National Guard unit. She worked with a Cultural Support Team that served with Army Rangers of the 275th Ranger Regiment in Afghanistan.
She and about 11 others worked with women and children, her mother said, and were on the front lines with other fellow soldiers.
“I don’t think they should change any of the [military] standards for any of these things,” White said. “Ashley would say, ‘If you can’t do what the men are doing, you don’t have any business there.’ ”
Stumpf was married to an Army officer, Capt. Jason Stumpf.
“Women have shown great courage and sacrifice on and off the battlefield, contributed in unprecedented ways to the military’s mission and proven their ability to serve in an expanding number of roles,” Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta said in announcing the policy change Thursday. “The department’s goal in rescinding the rule is to ensure that the mission is met with the best-qualified and most capable people, regardless of gender.”
White said her daughter tried out for the Cultural Support Team with 334 other women; only 32 were chosen. She said Lt. Stumpf came in second in her class.
“They went through grueling training,” the mother said. “If you make it through, you’re pretty good.”
When the deployment of the other female member of the Cultural Support Team ended, all 11 of her comrades came to visit Stumpf’s family in Stark County, White said. Some have named their babies after their fallen comrade.
A scholarship has been set up at Marlington for female runners who are interested in getting into the medical field, White said. Her daughter’s plans were to become a physician’s assistant after returning home from war. She was a sports medicine major at Kent State.
A permanent memorial is planned for the National Guard base in Goldsboro, N.C., out of which Lt. Stump served. For more information, go to http://honorourhero.com.
Jim Carney can be reached at 330-996-3576 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.