News: FET Concepts introduced to Latvian Military
Story by Sgt. Tatum Vayavananda
RIGA, Lativa - U.S. Marines introduced Female Engagement Team concepts to a group of Latvian Armed Forces servicemembers from June 17-19 at Adazi Military Base, Latvia. This introduction was the first step for the Baltic partner to further evaluate the capability for use within their own military.
The FET concept was started by the Marine Corps during past contingency operations of Iraq and Afghanistan, evolved from the Lioness program used during Operation Iraqi Freedom to respect cultural considerations when searching local females at entry-control points. Female Engagement Teams were tasked with engaging with the locals, distributing and collecting information to them, and assisting in everything from civil-military operations to clearing operations.
“In order to get a full understanding of the population, we engage with the indigenous female population,” said Gunnery Sgt. Tiffany C. Hudgins, the primary instructor for the event.
FETs have supported both conventional Marine units and special operations units.
Hudgins said she was part of the initial concept which began in 2007 in Iraq; after establishing the program and experiencing success in the Al Anbar province, it was further developed and later evolved into the Cultural Support Team for operations in Afghanistan in 2010, under the U.S. Marine Special Operations Command capability set.
“The information we were able to receive from the women, letting us know their side of their story, helped paint an overall picture of what was happening in the battle space,” said Hudgins. ”Now we are introducing the FET, why they are different, and how this concept can be applied to partner-nation forces for the types of missions they would like to support in throughout the world.”
The three-day event presented the basic principles to male and female Latvian servicemembers from a broad-spectrum of military occupational communities, including the Latvian Armed Forces Training Doctrine office.
“I think the concept will be very interesting for Latvians; it’s thinking outside of the box, supporting different attitudes and a different approach,” said Latvian Capt. Sandra Brale, a special operations officer from the Latvian Armed Forces. “It’s a great opportunity to reach out to those local communities; I think a FET team could be very essential and useful,” said Brale.
The course introduced the Female Engagement Team concept by covering its operational history; population engagements; negotiation techniques with practical-application drills; introduction to civil-military operations and civil affairs; and an introduction to the Marine Corps intelligence collecting process. Throughout the course, the U.S. and Latvians found common ground as female servicemembers and instructors were able to share their knowledge of past FET and CST experiences and lessons-learned to reinforce the concepts they presented.
“Every instructor had a different approach and a wealth of experience,” said Brale. “It is our first time with the FET course, but I feel that a new chapter has been opened to us.”
With experience supporting the ISAF mission in Afghanistan, Latvia is showing their commitment to collective security by working with allies and partners throughout the U.S. European Command area-of-responsibility. Training evaluations, such as this FET engagement, are indicative of that commitment as partners look for better ways to support their NATO counterparts.
“It’s important to work together because we foster our relationships and become better. We can share our experiences to achieve better results, then conduct missions and achieve the goals of that mission,” said Brale.
“Now I know what these concepts are and this is a great opportunity because women are women everywhere, regardless of their nationality. It would be good to be able to engage the other half of the population.”
The experiences, lessons, and knowledge shared will be taken into consideration as the NATO partner decides whether or not to implement further training to build their capabilities to perform FET engagements, which could prove useful for future contingency operations in an ever-shifting security environment with unknown, unconventional battle spaces.