Course trains cultural teams to work with women in theater

By USASOC Public AffairsAugust 26, 2011

Female engagement team
Hala Hushawa, Paktika's new director of women's affairs, meets with female engagement team members from the Paktika Provincial Reconstruction Team here Nov. 7. Hushawa and team members discussed the needs of Paktika's female population including Isla... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT BRAGG, N.C. (Army News Service, Jan. 21, 2011) -- Army special operations has a new capability for use on missions: teams of female Soldiers specially trained in the cultural nuances of interacting with women in theater.

The first iteration of the Cultural Support Team Training Course graduated Dec. 10, at Fort Bragg's John F. Kennedy Auditorium. The course educates female officers, warrant officers and enlisted Soldiers in the basic capabilities required to access and interact with female and adolescent populations in foreign areas.

In Iraq and Afghanistan, it is culturally inappropriate for male Soldiers to interact with the female population. Graduates of the CST course will accompany special operations teams and units and serve as educated liaisons between the sometimes all-male special operations units and female civilians and adolescents.

Members of CSTs will accompany Army special operations units on missions and operate alongside them. Their training prepares them to personally interview and communicate with females and adolescents while at the same time respecting cultural sensitivities.

After having been deployed in Iraq as an NCO in a civil affairs unit, Master Sgt. Lita J. Fraley, a CST training graduate, understands that importance of working with women on the ground in theater.

"Women have a larger understanding of the needs in their community," said Master Sgt. Lita J. Fraley, CST training graduate. "When the Army wants to understand the needs of an area, these women [in the communities] become a great source of information. "Women have been performing this job in the field because it is necessary to the mission."

While ad-hoc groups similar to CSTs have been formed in the past for particular situations, the new course has set a new standard of excellence. Mulholland said he believes will be examined and copied over and over.

"It is my hope that CSTs becomes an enduring competency within the U.S. Army Special Operations Command," said Lt. Gen. John F. Mulholland Jr., commander of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command, during the course graduation ceremony.

"This is a landmark moment," he said "This is a significant step that is long overdue. It is my hope that CSTs becomes an enduring competency within the U.S. Army Special Operations Command."

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U.S. Army Special Operations Command