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    Women of the Afghan Special Security Forces: Female Tactical Platoon

    Growing the Afghan SOF Female force

    Photo By Staff Sgt. Douglas Ellis | Female Tactical Platoon members fire during a qualification range near Kabul,...... read more read more

    More than 120 women currently serve in the Afghan Special Security Forces. As the ASSF actively integrate women into their units, the impact of their work is paving the way forward for the next generation of Afghan women.

    Training Warriors: The Female Tactical Platoon

    Within the ASSF, a small, elite unit of women form the Female Tactical Platoon. Recruited from the Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Interior and, in some cases, focused recruiting from the population, these women support ASSF forces during counterterrorism operations. Operating in a way that is respectful of Islam and the Afghan culture, these soldiers specialize in search, questioning and medical assistance of women and children. They operate in tandem with their male counterparts and assume the same risks and dangers.

    “Last year in Bagram, one of the girls was shot by the Taliban. She was injured, and was in shock and I stayed with her and helped her,” said one FTP member. “The training we do here helps with our missions.”

    The FTP operates on a continuous training cycle; the only interruption to their training is mission deployment or leave. Fifteen week-long deployment cycles are the same as the male units. The women serve throughout Afghanistan and routinely deploy to populated areas in provinces such as Balkh, Kandahar and Bagram.

    FTP leadership deploys the women on a rotational and volunteer basis. The unit’s Pashto speakers are always in demand. The women operate in a 6-woman team; once chosen for an upcoming mission deployment they are required to complete 12 pre-deployment tasks that support the search, medical and questioning requirements, as well as two scenario-based full mission profile training exercises. Before leaving for deployment, the female and male units participate in a combined validation exercise.

    Upon completion of all pre-deployment tasks the women receive two weeks of leave. FTP members who are not currently identified for an upcoming deployment train and focus on the platoon’s 12 essential tasks in garrison.

    The women conduct all training and classes together as a cohort although plans are underway to split the women into two platoons. A Female Training Platoon will focus on recruitment, assessment and training, and a Female Tactical Platoon will focus on upcoming deployments. Both platoons will remain housed together at their current training facility.

    This change is noteworthy. In essence, it signifies the Government of Afghanistan’s institutional support for the FTP program and a long-term investment in the growth of a unique component of the Afghan Special Security Forces.

    According to a NATO Civil Support Team advisor, the Afghan women are already stepping into “trainer” roles for physical training. “We’ve assigned a few girls to be physical training NCOICs. They make the training, they lead it, and I think that is the next step for them. Being a bit more ‘hands off’ I think is the goal of every advisor here, and they have a lot of it under control.”

    Many women in Afghanistan grow up in households where fitness is not a focus, so members of an FTP may have varying levels of endurance and strength. “We try to have girls talk about their real life experiences [on deployment]. Not just the task, but the purpose,” said a CST advisor.

    Recruiting for FTP

    The difficulty in FTP recruiting is similar to most special operations units. The duties of many of the positions within ASSF require additional specialized vetting and training for sensitive mission-sets. The operational requirements of the job require that only the highest quality women are accepted and trained into the program. The women must be literate and willing to endure sometimes austere working environments.

    Joining the military or police in Afghanistan is even more daunting for women, and different than other nations according to Lt Col. Tahna Cobra, the first female Afghan Commando.

    “It is not easy coming into the military. They go through a lot of challenges before they get here. They don’t just come and sign up like every other country,” she stated. “A lot of young women, they go through a lot of fighting with their family. A lot of aggravation with their family for a week or two weeks.”

    The women that do matriculate to the FTP course are tenacious. Many of the FTP embody what one NATO advisor calls the “no quit factor.”

    “The ones who go slow, but keep chugging along, we can work with that. Right now, we have more ‘little engines that can’ and we can really work with a woman who just doesn’t quit. We’ve had some who will go until they pass out.” she said.

    A veteran FTP said, “When I was little, I loved the Army and I wanted to join. I want to help, I wanted to serve my country and my people. I can do that through the FTP, and I can serve the females of Afghanistan also.”

    “These women are not driven by money. They're not signing up because of the money. They are signing up because of patriotism. They are signing up because now they are allowed to work,” said a Gender Advisor for the Ministry of Defense. “They say, ‘I need to get rid of terrorists, to make a difference in my country.’”

    Deploying Warriors

    The FTP understands the importance of their mission. They operate and perform duties that fill a critical gap in the counterterrorism mission, enabling and optimizing ASSF operations.

    “I’ve been with FTP almost two years and I’ve gone on three deployments,” said an FTP soldier. “Bagram was hard because it was the first time for me and we had to walk a mountain. It’s now easy.”

    Another stated, “I’ve been with the FTP six years. I’ve deployed so many times I can’t remember them all.”

    “There are very high standards for all of the soldiers in the ASSF” said a NATO Civil Support Team advisor. “The FTP women put a lot on the line to serve – even more so than the other ASSF/ANDSF because they operate in a highly sensitive operational role – and they are making a significant difference.”

    Another FTP who has deployed numerous times said, “I want to send a message that when were are on a mission, this is what we trained for. We’re coming to help you. Don’t be scared of us, we are here to help you.”

    “Everything that is Woman”

    While Afghanistan faces obstacles in the road to cultural gender parity, there is cause for hope, according to the FTP members.

    “Our purpose is to help our country, to support our family and our community of Afghanistan. People should have an open mind.” said a young FTP member. “Women can leave their family for work. We are equal and we have a right to serve our country.”

    “I’m proud of my effort and of my country people; their mind and hearts are opening day by day,” said an enthusiastic young FTP.

    “We need the girls. We need FTP,” said a female operator. “The reason is, we have to serve women and if women join the Army or FTP, that’s a good thing because they can serve everything that is women.”



    Date Taken: 04.12.2018
    Date Posted: 04.12.2018 03:10
    Story ID: 272750
    Location: AF

    Web Views: 1,908
    Downloads: 6