Female Engagement Team brings aid to school, orphanage
February 14, 2011
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MAZAR-E SHARIF, Afghanistan, Feb. 14, 2011 -- Members of the 4th Combat Aviation Brigade's Female Engagement Team, stationed at Camp Marmal, Afghanistan, visited the Red Crescent Society's nearby orphanage and school Feb. 12, bringing with them school supplies and clothing items.
The supplies were gathered by the brigade's chaplain assistants and the mothers' and children's programs they are associated with, as well as by families and friends of Soldiers who responded to requests for support.
"In the mission of aiding Afghanistan in getting back on its feet, governing itself, and securing itself, we want to make sure the women's needs are met as well," said 1st Lt. Rebecca Wagner, the officer in charge of 4th CAB's Female Engagement Team, or FET. "The FET is a way to get the Afghan women's voices heard."
The team also opens a line of line of communication between ISAF and Afghan women, Wagner said.
Every organic unit of the 4th CAB at Camp Marmal is represented in the 12-member FET, which began two months ago. The team, trained in cultural sensitivity, basic medical skills, language, and media interaction, as well as personal defense, crowd control, and tactical patrolling, enables the brigade to reach out to Afghan women in a way the unit's male troops cannot. Cultural norms prevent Afghan women from interacting with men, especially foreigners, in most situations.
"As we are more and more integrated into missions, I see the FET's contribution as gathering information that would not be gathered due to the norms of the Afghan culture," said Chief Warrant Officer Brenda Munoz. Munoz is a human resources technician and a FET member.
The FET is finding its niche within Regional Command - North's operational plan and stands ready to assist the headquarters, Provincial Reconstruction Teams, and ground forces.
"We are establishing a presence and relationship with the Afghan women in [Regional Command - North]" Wagner said. "It is our hope and intention to hand this mission over when we transfer authority this summer."
The trip to the orphanage and school was the team's first mission, and the first opportunity for them to put their training to practical use.
Munoz wanted to join the FET to "do humanitarian missions to help rebuild Afghanistan." She wants to get out and physically do something toward this effort.
"The mothers and teenage girls were very open to talking with us. We found out about their hopes and dreams. We talked about programs they think will benefit them and ways they can become more self-sufficient," Munoz said.
The Red Crescent orphanage houses not only children, but also many of the children's mothers, whose husbands are either dead or in prison.
"Our mission is to partner with the women and Afghan National Security Forces in [Regional Command - North]; to mentor and help them maximize their capabilities," Wagner said. "This was a valuable experience toward that endeavor."
FET teams operate all over Afghanistan with members from all military services.