By Staff Sgt. John EtheridgeAugust 30, 2014
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - Even though International Security Assistance Forces troop numbers continue to fall throughout Afghanistan, there is still a need for qualified Soldiers to work with one of the country's largest groups: women.
Eight female Soldiers graduated from a two-day Female Engagement Team class Aug. 27, 2014, held at the headquarters of Regional Command-South, Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan.
Originally, members of a FET had a primary duty to assist commanders when their units were doing combat operations and encountering women on the battlefield. Their duties were to help mitigate gender-related issues that might arise when searching local females or gaining access to areas that only women were allowed into because of native customs, said 1st Lt. Meghanne Majdecki, a native of Tampa, Fla., and the FET officer in charge with RC-South and Combined Joint Task Force-1.
"Female engagement teams help access half of the population that was previously ignored because male Soldiers didn't have access to them," she said.
Majdecki said half of the training given in the class was tailored to female search procedures and learning to work through other female cultural issues. The other half of the training covered newer topics including gender-equality considerations women are facing in Afghanistan and what coalition female Soldiers can do in their capacity to assist Afghan women.
"What we focused on specifically was key leader engagements," said Majdecki. "We set up a mock KLE visit and had some Afghan linguists support us and did some role-playing exercises."
Besides KLEs, other areas of training also emphasized in the two-day class were Afghan culture and customs, study of body language and engaging Afghan leadership on gender equality issues. Attendees also learned the administrative procedures for reporting their engagements back to their commands.
In addition to the eight women in the class, there were also three male Soldiers who participated in the FET training.
"Even though the training is tailored toward a female engagement team, there was a lot of good general key leader engagement training in the class," said 1st Lt. Aloysius Hunter, a San Antonio native with the Infrastructure Advising Team assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division, RC-South.
Hunter said that since he has been in Afghanistan he and his team have worked directly with local government officials and much of the training in the FET class would have been useful to him and his team had they received it during their pre-deployment training.
"It's just very solid general training for any interactions with the
Afghan National Security Forces," he said.
Spc. Shaquita Lyles, a communication specialist with HHBN, 1st Cav. Div., said the skills she learned in the FET class would help her in her Army career regardless of whether she was deployed overseas or not. She also learned one of her most important roles as a FET member is to be an example and inspire Afghan women that may want to join the Afghan security forces or police forces.
"I'm basically setting an example for those women and showing them that you don't have to be a man to contribute to your country," she said.
Majdecki also agrees that being a role model is one of the best ways to help Afghan women. Afghan military and police forces are pushing to recruit women and she feels that by being in uniform and going to local engagements, she is helping to inspire the local women to consider joining these forces.
"I think role modeling is the biggest impact we can have right now," she said. "We have women going out on missions and having the Afghan men and women see them doing their jobs has the biggest positive effect. It shows that women can serve in the military and police and have regular jobs and still be treated with dignity and respect."