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    2nd Cav. Regt. FETs reflect on female ANP successes



    Story by Cpl. Mariah Best 

    ISAF Regional Command South

    KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – On Nov. 16, 2013, Kandahar province hosted the first all-female Afghan National Police Basic Patrolman’s Course for the southern region of Afghanistan.

    The course concluded on Jan. 9, 2014, and the 21 female ANP graduates continue to move forward in their careers as police.

    As many of these ANP females moved on to a 16-week non-commissioned officer course that started March 1, their helpers, mentors, and friends reflected on their relationships and experiences.

    Six females from 2nd Cavalry Regiment were chosen to be a part of a small force known as a Female Engagement Team. Their presence every day at the eight-week long BPC course resulted in more than what any of the FET members ever expected.

    “Not all of us on the team volunteered,” said Staff Sgt. Renata Gaddis, 2nd Cavalry Regiment, FET member, said. “There were only a few people on the team that did.”

    Gaddis explained that some females were nominated to be on the team because of their qualifications, security clearance, outgoing personality and high physical fitness test score. Even if one female lacked in a certain area at the beginning, the take-away was much more.

    “For instance, Spc. (Donna) Diaz, when she first came out there, that was my first time meeting her, and she was very quiet, very introverted,” Gaddis said. “I got the opportunity see her blossom throughout the eight weeks.”

    Diaz, a 2nd Cavalry Regiment FET member, and Gaddis were partnered together and, unlike other teams, they were there for all eight weeks of the course while other teams rotated in.

    “This was a great experience. I’m honored to be on a FET. At first I had no idea what it was. After I did some research on it and went on a mission, I loved it,” Diaz said.

    In addition to Gaddis and Diaz, Staff Sgt. Jessica Dunda, Sgt. Gail McCray, Cpl. Chandra Oglen, and Spc. Letitia House all from Task Force Muleskinner, 2nd Cav. Regt., provided FET support for the course.

    “Specialist House is one of the one’s who volunteered,” Gaddis said. “The first week of training, we didn’t even have instructors, but she got out there and put together a little hygiene course for the females. She did it because it was something she was really passionate about doing.”

    House’s passion stems from her knowledge and experience.

    “It wasn’t always that females in the U.S. or females in the Army were accepted, so for (the command) to say, ‘Hey females we need you, we need you to stand up,’ that meant a lot,” House said.

    Gaddis explained that having a supportive chain of command throughout their mission made all the difference.

    “The amount of support we got from the chain of command was awesome. Anything that we needed, they were there for us. They attended the graduation to show their support for what we were doing,” Gaddis said. “To have that kind of support from the chain of command meant a lot.”

    Looking back, Gaddis realizes that all the hard work put into the successful class didn’t come without a bumpy start.

    “It was tough in the beginning. We had to stress the importance of wearing the uniform and wearing it with pride, but by the end of the class, you could see they finally got it,” Gaddis said.

    Wearing a uniform was the unifying force that everyone in the class could relate to.

    “We broke the ice by telling them we were military also. Some of us were dual, some of us were married and had kids, because they questioned, ‘How could (we) do this job and have kids?’” McCray said. “So we introduced ourselves and we got to learn a little bit about them as they learned a little bit about us.”

    Gaddis explained that being comfortable with each other was the cornerstone of their relationship.

    “I think for them, seeing us there everyday, that let them know we were devoted to that cause and, on that same token, I think it made them feel safe knowing we would show up every day. It was like a sense of comfort. They didn’t mind showing up everyday because they knew we would be there too,” Gaddis said.

    Dunda agreed that the FET’s presence often spoke louder than words.

    “We represented a strong female influence of what is possible for them,” Dunda said.

    Regardless of the language barriers, simple physical signs of emotion were sometimes all that was needed.

    “Their smiles when they came into the room said a lot,” House said. “We liked it when they gave us a good, old-fashioned American thumbs up, like ‘We like it.’”

    Diaz agreed.

    “You could tell they were in enjoying the class and enjoying what they did,” Diaz said.

    Gaddis explained that the pride and success the females displayed showed in their actions, as well. A particular female who was affectionately nicknamed, “Momma,” was elected to be an unofficial class leader and displayed unwavering confidence throughout the course.

    “She wanted to give interviews and she actually said that she wasn’t afraid; she wasn’t afraid of the Taliban or anybody who didn’t want her to do what she was trying to do,” Gaddis said. “She was willing to take a bullet, not only for all of her sisters in that class, but for all of us in uniform in the room. For her to get up in front of her male counterparts and say that just shows that there is hope. It took a lot of courage.”

    Having the support of the males is an important tool.

    “The fact that we had male soldiers out there providing transportation and guardian angel support gave them a chance to see us interact with our male counterparts, and gave them a sense of, ‘Ok, this could really happen on our end,’” Gaddis said.

    McCray says that being able to actually talk with the females and learn from them as they learn from her isn’t comparable to learning about their culture any other way.

    “There is nothing like hands on,” McCray said.

    Dunda enjoyed seeing the effort all of the students were putting into the class and how much they wanted to succeed.

    “I had a good time just being out there and seeing in a day how much they learned, how much they picked up and how much they were trying to get better,” Dunda said.

    All of the Muleskinner FET members maintain other jobs in addition to their duties as FET members, but they say the experiences do not compete.

    “It doesn’t compare to what I do on a daily basis at all,” Gaddis said. “I can honestly say that, by far, this has been the most rewarding assignment that I’ve had in my ten years of service.”

    For Diaz, helping the females in their success is what gave her pride.

    “It’s something you don’t get to see every day. It makes you feel privileged and proud to be a female,” Diaz said. “To help other females that don’t have what we have and show them that they can do the same thing we do.”

    House agreed that pride is definitely a take-away she gained in her experience.

    “This is the fist time in my little Army career where I’ve felt this much pride to be in the Army. I felt like I’m really contributing,” House said.

    Although the Muleskinner females will not be around for the next BPC class to start, they are hopeful for the future of female ANPs.

    “My hope is that this helped to build their confidence so they can pass the torch on and get out there and motivate the rest of the females in their communities,” McCray said. “To be independent rather than dependent.”

    Gaddis looks forward to the next class but knows it will be tough to beat the first one.

    “Hopefully, the next class is even better than the first one, although it’s going to be hard to top it because I really do think this first class was a really good class,” Gaddis said. “Maybe I’m biased because it was my first one, but I really think it is going to be hard to top, just because we had a really good group of female students and we had an amazing group of FETs out there.”

    As the Afghan women move forward in their NCO school, the FET members know the importance of their success and advancement.

    “People are always saying, ‘You guys are a part of history,’ or ‘You guys are making history,’ I can honestly hold that one now,” Gaddis said. “Without a doubt, I know for sure I left my mark here in Afghanistan. I contributed to the Afghan women moving forward.”

    The FET members realize that the more people who support the female ANP’s achievements, the more potential they will have to be successful.

    “I wish this could be widely televised, because you always see the negative. I want people to know that Afghanistan is trying to build up and stabilize their own security forces,” House said.

    “They want a better Afghanistan and they are fighting for it,” Gaddis added.

    Diaz agrees that knowledge is power.

    “I really hope the word gets spread so other Afghan women will know and hear from other Afghan females that they can do this too.”



    Date Taken: 03.01.2014
    Date Posted: 03.04.2014 11:55
    Story ID: 121482

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