Half Chinese and half Russian, Anastasia Breslow followed in her father's footsteps and joined the military. In Lioness, her diary readings document the hidden history of the Lioness program and the personal experiences of what it feels like to be on the cutting edge of change in the military.
"...when I got home I wanted to go back; it was great to be home, I appreciated everything so much more. But everyday life seemed so average and there was still more work to be done over there."
-- Captain Anastasia Breslow
What have you been doing since filming ended in August 2007?
I remained on active duty, completed company command and moved to my next assignment at Fort Bragg, where I am currently a part of a training brigade that prepares reserve units to deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan.
How do you think your experiences in combat as a woman differ from those of men?
It is my experience that people interact differently with female soldiers, whether it is other soldiers or the civilian population, hence our value on the Lioness missions. To me it's the outside reactions that shape the difference more than any disparity in training, mentality or perspective.
What was/is your day-to-day role during active duty?
My specialty is communications. Whether leading signal soldiers or planning signal operations as a part of a staff, it is making sure the war fighters are able to communicate.
What most surprised you about your time in Iraq?
That when I got home I wanted to go back; it was great to be home, I appreciated everything so much more. But everyday life seemed so average and there was still more work to be done over there.
What about your experience would you like to communicate to the American public?
There are some goals worth sacrificing for and succeeding in Iraq is one that I have already done and will likely do again, willingly.
How has your service affected your family?
It tests my marriage but every separation, every challenge we overcome makes us stronger together. My family could not be more proud.
What would your advice be to an 18-year-old woman entering the military?
Be prepared for challenges and then enjoy learning that you are stronger than you ever thought you could be. Remember the tradition you represent and live up to the ideals of a true profession.
What is your relationship like with your commander?
You never thought working so late and facing so many challenges could be entirely fulfilling and yet it is. As for that female part, other than the ability to enjoy giggling without getting strange looks, I never felt that the company, my peers or my leaders treated me any differently.
24 May 2004
The day I got this diary was actually one of the best days for me. I actually wrote in it, today was the best of days. What each day should aspire to be. It started out plainly enough. The alarm went off, my side was numb for sleeping on it too long. I didn't want to get up. I took my time. Work was normal enough, as normal as work can be in a war zone. I got an unexpected call to work on a Humvee communications system that I was actually completely unfamiliar with and that was lots of fun. Mechanics hooked it up wrong and it was sparking everywhere. I thought I was going get electrocuted.
When I was done with that, I was disappointed because I didn't have time to go to the gym. However when I got back from lunch everything changed. Behind my desk were stacked three high, three packages. The first was from Merlin, the second from Ken and Karen, friends of my parents, and the last from you. Um, my best friend sent me this diary so I write it as if I am writing to her. So the last was from you, my best friend. I opened Merlin's first; it was the smallest and on top. It had a bottle of lotion I didn't need, a movie I had been waiting months to get and gold. Not real gold but pictures. Pictures of Merlin and his friends, Merlin by himself, Merlin goofing off. It was great to see him. I hadn't seen him in five months (starts to cry) and I was looking at new pictures. It was like seeing him again; I showed everyone the pictures. When I finished I took the other boxes to my room to sort out all the other packages.
27 May 2004
This was one of the not as good days. Merlin and I were a little tense on the phone. Probably because he'd had a bad day at court and I sensed his frustration. But we talked it out and had a good end. It was going to be very hard when he goes to England. I know that is selfish; it is going to be so incredible for him; I wish I could join him. I miss traveling and sightseeing. Even though I am in a foreign country at this moment I can't enjoy the experience as I spend my days behind concertina wire and a tall dirt berm and I am experiencing a culture of dirt and dust.
2 June 2004
I've been on three Lioness missions so far. I don't really want to go on any more because it is too hot out. The first two missions were house raids. It was very surreal intruding on people's houses. The living conditions were so stark; not at all familiar. I think my room on the base is more furnished than the two houses I went to. More importantly, we're not raiding poor people but affluent people who can influence and back the insurgents. I cannot imagine living like that. I suppose it is not bad. They have a roof and four walls, carpet and curtains, and mats on the floor. It is just so sparse and empty. It is how I would imagine a Bedouin tent to be. Comfortable enough and but not personalized and easy to move. Only this is actually someone's home. There's not artwork or knick knacks around. Its not personal or homey. One house had a badly disabled boy. Brain damaged from childhood. He twitched and was underweight. He couldn't hold himself up. It was very sad. They wanted us to take him, but he wasn't sick. We couldn't' fix the damage; he was healthy just crippled. It doesn't seem to make sense but his heart and blood pressure and everything was fine. He just want' formed normally. The family cried a lot. It was my second house raid and it was still so uncomfortable.
The first house had one woman who could speak some English. It was difficult but not as bad as the second family. They kept talking and kept talking when the translator wasn't there, so it was useless. It was strange invading these homes at night. It was strange to imagine these families plotting against us, though if someone rammed in my gate down in the middle of the night I might be inclined to plot. We just have to have faith in the intel that these people are doing wrong.
The last raid I went on was truly dangerous. I remember after we set up and stayed at the checkpoint until dawn, the prayers had ended sometime ago. Then suddenly a man came over the loudspeaker again saying something. The last part I caught allah jihad something jihad something. Then all hell broke loose. About a hundred meters from us. I remember I was about to ask the marines I was with if they thought they heard the same jihad too. There was no time for that. We hopped into the truck and started zipping around the outskirts of the battle trying to block the enemy from escaping or reinforcing. I was dismounted and took a position. Stray bullets flew around but I didn't see where they were coming from. The area was too saturated with marines to just fire blindly. It was good four hours of straight fighting. I saw my first dead boy that day. Three Iraqis actually.
I still can't believe that I was in a firefight. Me, a female signal officer, someone expected to support from a desk was out there. Strangely, the only woman I was out there because I was a female. They needed a Lionness team so badly, and so many, that even as a support officer I was pulled in. I hope I don't have to do them very often but I will never try to get out of it.