Female Soldiers Train for Key Roles in Local Community Interaction
April 26, 2010
CAMP SPANN, Afghanistan - Select female Soldiers of 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, attended a unique training this past week in order to form a Female Engagement Team with Capt. Lisa Kirby, commander, C Company, 1st Brigade Special Troops Battalion, in the lead at Camp Mike Spann, Afghanistan, April 12-16.
Many think the woman have a subservient role in Middle Eastern cultures, but don't understand that the community operates like a tight-knit family where each person plays an important part.
"The females actually have a lot more influence on the community and their families than I originally thought," said Sgt. Sabrina Niles, the security control, FET, 1st BCT.
During the training the Soldiers were taught by linguists and women who had a prior knowledge of living in Afghanistan communities.
Women farm, cook meals and gather with other women, no men, said Fatima Younoszai, a FET linguist from Virginia, who was born in Kabul, Afghanistan. If they go outside the home or village they need to take a related male with them as escort.
"We want to respect the male role," Kirby said. "We hope to have a military male engage a village male leader and get permission for us to meet with the women of their village."
The female Soldiers should cover their hair to show respect, Younoszai said. Women start covering their hair at age 14 to 15; this is usually imposed by the husband or father.
During the training the Soldiers learned a little bit about the country's history and challenges they have seen and overcome.
The law in Afghanistan is that a woman should be 16 or older before marriage, Younoszai said. They are typically arranged marriages, but some girls are still given away as young as 12. Many women during recent years have become widows with children, some as early as age 20.
The people of Afghanistan have a history of bad experiences with other countries, Younoszai said. Many have tried to come here to take over, trying to change their culture and religion in the process.
"We will say we are here to help you," Younoszai said. "We are not here to change your culture and we are not here to change your religion. Because after 20 years of war you need help; once you are up on your feet, we will leave."
The FET is an important asset for today's Army, communicating the mission goals to the family aspect of the Afghan culture.
"The training was an overview and insight into a way of reaching out to the female population in Afghanistan," Niles said. "Females make up almost half of the population in Afghanistan. I think it will be a great asset."
One of the goals of the FET is to reach out to women and find out the needs in their home and community.
"We are the ones who go out there and find out what they need, laying the foundation for other organizations to provide it," Kirby said. "We will execute a continuous engagement strategy to build confidences with the population."
It is not the typical mission for a traditional army, but it is today's mission for today's Army.
"It's nice to see that the Army is not always thinking about fight to contact," Niles said. "They're trying to make a difference and help."