By Staff Sgt. Rebecca Petrie, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat TeamSeptember 7, 2011
ZABUL PROVINCE, Afghanistan, Sept. 7, 2011 -- Soldiers from the 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, known as the Stonewall Brigade, Female Engagement Team and 3rd Platoon, Alpha Battery, 2nd Regiment, 8th Field Artillery Battalion, along with members of the Afghan National Police, worked together to conduct a joint foot patrol through the bazaar in Qalat, Aug. 21.
The purpose of the patrol was to get a feel for the general attitude and perception of the local population toward the ANP, and to give a show of female presence to demonstrate equality between men and women.
"Sunday's patrol was the first step into community policing in Qalat," said Sgt. 1st Class Bladimiro Fernandez, the Combined Team Zabul provost marshal noncommissioned officer in charge. "This is the only way to make headway in this war -- getting the people to take ownership in their communities by building positive relationships through the Afghan National Police."
As the Soldiers and policemen walked through the bazaar, they stopped to engage in friendly conversations with vendors and shoppers. Some of the police even stopped to pose for photos.
"I'm ecstatic to be a part of positive change in a community dismayed by terror," said Fernandez. "Once the people have ownership, we will have met our goal."
Friendly small talk with the vendors was just a part of the whole joint patrol experience. Even though women were scarce and difficult to talk to, Sgt. 1st Class Elizabeth Jackson the Female Engagement Team, or FET, noncommissioned officer in charge, said she had a great time interacting with the group of children who swarmed the patrol as they handed out toys and shoes.
"I loved interacting with the kids," said Jackson. "They are the future of Afghanistan, and winning the hearts and minds here will be through the children. If they see that we care about them, I believe it will change their way of thinking and change the future of Afghanistan for the better."
The positive experience left an indelible impression on several members of the group, who expressed a strong desire to follow up with another mission in the near future.