News: These boots were made for walking
Story by Spc. Tracy R. Myers
CAMP NATHAN SMITH, Afghanistan – In Kandahar province, Afghanistan, a class of Afghan National Police women graduated the first official coalition sponsored training course Aug. 5, wearing traditional burqas, ANP uniforms and combat boots.
Soldiers from TF Shadow donated boots and other essential articles of clothing to the 11 women who graduated, and plan to provide assistance in future courses.
Because women have not completely been integrated into the ANP, they often do not get issued the uniform items they need to perform their jobs, said 1st Lt. Elizabeth Merwin, E Co., Task Force Shadow maintenance platoon leader and Dari linguist.
To lend a helping hand to these women, Capt. Kevin Trimble, TF Shadow Chaplain, helped collect boots, burqas, sunglasses, socks and gloves from Soldiers, churches and friends to donate to the graduates, he said.
This training course is scheduled to continue, therefore the need for these items will also.
The Afghan Ministry of the Interior selected the Self-Security Awareness course developed in Kabul by the Norwegian Police and are now working with ANP instructors and the Canadian Civil Police to introduce it to Kandahar.
The training is focused on providing women the opportunity and training they need to be strong and successful policewomen.
The 12-day training course is taught by two Afghan policewomen with the support and assistance of coalition forces. During this course, members of the American, Canadian and Norwegian forces helped administer the training.
The women were taught to assess threat levels and determine how much force is necessary, said Merwin. They learned take down techniques, first-aid, and various weapon skills to help them on the job.
The course focused on giving these women the confidence and skills they need to serve in the ANP.
The majority of these women are struggling to support their children, said Merwin. They join seeking security for their families.
Supporting the ladies by providing them the necessities to perform their jobs will lessen their burden.
The women were so proud to put on their new boots and burqas, said Merwin.
Something as simple as an article of clothing brings about a sense of pride and purpose.
There are approximately 400,000 women in Kandahar City, and only 23 trained ANP women, said Merwin. This has created a drive to train more ANP women.
It is important to have female ANP officers due to the severe restrictions of Afghan culture.
“A man who is not related to a woman cannot search her or enter her home unless a male family member is present,” said Merwin. “That inhibits our forces from doing searches.”
ANP women are walking a fine line, playing a very important and risky role in the security of Afghanistan.
“We don’t want to alter their culture, but improve their lives,” said Merwin. “Getting women involved in the security effort will be slow but effective.”
The Women’s involvement in security here has accelerated in different ways.
Gen. Dastgier Mayar, Kandahar’s Sarpoza Prison warden, said he was happy to see the city of Kandahar adopt this training program and proud to see his city making progress toward security.
ANP women will be able to assist security forces on different levels, allowing them to strengthen security throughout the city.
Several of the graduating women have been working as prison guards and watching over the female inmates at Sarpoza, said Merwin.
Dastgier said he has seen the strength and courage of women from other countries, and is happy to see women of his own country moving in the same direction.
Female ANP officers can help control narcotics and violence within their community.
Abdul Ranjbar, director of Kandahar’s Counter Narcotics Department, said he has already seen ANP women making a difference in anti-narcotics efforts, and is pleased to see the force expanding.
After this course, the graduates are prepared and ready to make a difference in the security of their city.
One graduate said she is happy to have the opportunity to serve her people and improve the lives of women in Kandahar province and her community.
She thanked everyone who was involved for giving her that opportunity, saying she was very grateful for all the encouragement and support she received.
The women were very grateful for the instructors and assistance of coalition forces.
To show their gratitude, they constantly offered them gifts, such as trinkets and henna.
“Afghan women are very affectionate,” said Merwin. “If you give them something, they feel obligated to give you something in return.”
The instructors and participants were not doing it for the gifts.
Merwin said the most gratifying part of her involvement was seeing them transition from submissive, docile women to empowered women of authority.