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    Female engagement team helps establish connection between Marines and Afghan women



    Story by Lance Cpl. Dwight Henderson 

    Regimental Combat Team-7

    HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan — Throughout the Garmsir District in Afghanistan, Marines and Sailors of 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, interact with multiple key leaders and locals to learn what the village needs.

    However, there is one gap that is hard to bridge — the interaction between Marines and the females of these villages.

    This is the problem that the Marines and sailors of the female engagement team, attached to 2/2, worked to solve, as they conducted multiple patrols through the village of Tajik Khar Dec. 16-20.

    With the help from the Marines of Easy Company, 2/2, and local members of the Afghan National Army, the FET moved from compound to compound, hoping to speak to the females to discuss what medical care and humanitarian assistance was needed for them.

    "This is extremely important," said 2nd Lt. Carly E. Towers, the officer in charge of the FET. "Our mission out here as (International Security Assistance Force) is to talk to and work with the locals to build cooperation and security."

    Because of the local Afghan culture, male Marines are not allowed to look at, let alone talk to, any local females. Even the ANA is not supposed to talk to the women of any compound, so the female Marines' efforts do not only benefit other Marines, but the local ANA, as well.

    "It is good news for us," said Sgt. Shokorunnah, a soldier with the ANA. "The female Marines came and talked to the women and found out their problems. I am very happy."

    Before the all-female team can even enter a compound, they must first talk to the owner, generally a male who is not use to interacting with Marine females.

    "The general perception has been ranging from positive to dumbfounded," said Towers, from Modesto, Calif. "We've had a lot of success in the past few days. They've been interacting with us like male Marines."

    Once they have received the blessing of the owner, it is time for the FET to do their work. They slip through the doorway of the compound to begin their discussions.
    "We just try to sit down, talk to them, and get to know them a bit," said Towers, a Naval Academy graduate. "We ask them if they have any questions for us. We're trying to build rapport."

    The team understands that respect to the culture is very important, so whenever they enter a compound, they remove their helmets and don a headscarf to cover their hair.
    This shows a respect towards the culture, which may otherwise keep the FET from being successful.

    "Without the scarves, the women would be shamed from the families," said Shokorunnah.

    Through their interactions over the past few days, the FET has encountered many different females, including those who claim to have never left their compound for fear of the firefights and improvised explosive devices.

    "We hear a lot of things from the women that we wouldn't hear from the men or that would be said in a different way," said Towers.

    Towers added that they get a lot of questions about medical care, and they have a female corpsman with them, which allows them to offer medical care for basic sicknesses.

    The cooperation built through these interactions can help build a stronger relationship between all Afghans and Marines.

    "If we are sending the same message to the (Afghan) females as the male Marines to the (Afghan) males, then at the end of the day, when they're talking, they can (help)." said Towers.



    Date Taken: 12.26.2009
    Date Posted: 12.26.2009 15:15
    Story ID: 43167

    Web Views: 1,051
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