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    Women of the Afghan Special Security Forces: Flying high with Special Mission Wing

    Women of the Afghan Special Security Forces: Flying high with Special Mission Wing

    Photo By Sun Vega | Lt. Col. Cobra Tahna, Ministry of Defense Deputy Director of Human Resources for...... read more read more

    Originally established in 2006 as the Afghan Air Interdiction Unit assigned to the Ministry of Interior and re-flagged as the 777th Special Mission Wing in 2013, the SMW is the smallest organization of the Afghanistan’s Special Security Forces. The SMW employs a fleet of Mi-17 helicopters and PC-12 fixed-wing aircraft to conduct a full-range of special operations aviation mission tasks.

    Headquartered in Kabul with flying squadrons in Kabul, Kandahar and Mazar-e Sharif, SMW is the only Afghan air unit that provides nighttime air assault capability under night vision devices to the Afghan Special Security Forces and Afghan National Defense Security Forces.

    As part of the sustained ASSF growth outlined in the Afghan 2020 Roadmap, SMW will grow its flight crews from approximately 40 to more than 60 over the coming years. As SMW’s numbers increase, so does the need to recruit additional female soldiers to serve with this distinctive unit.

    Women and the Special Mission Wing

    The women assigned hold diverse positions throughout Special Mission Wing Headquarters in Kabul. “There are 10 females working in different sections of SMW,” said one soldier, “such as medical, operations, intelligence, logistics and security.”

    Service with the Afghan Security Forces as a whole requires additional specialized training for sensitive mission-sets. Positions are harder to fill for both men and women, but SMW leadership is setting the standard for other ASSF units. SMW female recruitment efforts will take the unit from the 10 women now on duty to 40 women assigned by 2020. SMW senior leaders willingly support bringing qualified women into the organization and highlight the contributions of the women already selected and assigned to SMW during external engagements.

    “The changes are remarkable,” said the Special mission Wing Commander, Brig. Gen. Abdul Fahim Ramin at a recent event, “Women can be an active part of society today.”

    Other members of SMW leadership are also supportive of recruiting women into the unit. According to a NATO Special Operations Component Command-Afghanistan Gender Advisor, the women within SMW are trained and promoted alongside their male peers.

    When asked about career and development opportunities for soldiers at SMW, one female operator who has served with SMW for two years said, “The truth is, you work hard. You work for yourself and you work for your country. You have a decent salary to pay for your life. We have other opportunities here, like going to school, to make yourself better in life.”

    Flying Forward

    Recruiting women across Afghanistan into the ASSF remains a challenge, much less recruiting for a unique aviation unit like SMW. These elite, special operations forces possess higher requirements for entrance. Promoting quality over quantity, all ASSF members, male and female, are specially selected and trained for their assignment to elite units.

    Formal recruitment plans are in development to bring 30 more women to SMW by the end of 2020. The opening of additional career fields to women, such as Aviation Maintenance, and assessing potential candidates within the Afghan National Army are future possibilities to meet the female end-strength goal.

    “I want freedom in the military for women so they can choose their own path.” said Lt. Col. Cobra Tahna, a 30-year Army veteran, “People have to give each other freedom and trust each other.”

    As SMW integrates more women into its mission and operations, the potential for other ASSF units to model the same behaviors and standards grows, creating a positive cycle of recruitment, military or police service, upward mobility, and gender parity.

    “I want people to respect the military uniform. We are hoping one day we will be equal,” said a female SMW soldier, “If not equal, close to the rest of the world.”



    Date Taken: 03.20.2018
    Date Posted: 03.21.2018 02:39
    Story ID: 269929
    Location: AF

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