KANDAHAR, Afghanistan – The Female Engagement Team with 2nd Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, is enhancing the ability to gain intelligence from an untapped resource: Afghan women.
“Our mission is to go where the men can’t,” said Sgt. Shanequa Cardona, a team leader with the FET of 2nd Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment. “Because of their customs, it is seen as inappropriate for women to talk with men who live outside their home.”
“Without the FET we would have no way to engage the female populace,” said Capt. John Intile, the commander of Company C, 2nd Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment. “In some cases we get different perspectives and points of view on things.”
“The women have a lot of concerns about their children’s education and medical needs,” said Spc. Christina Alvarado, a FET member with 2nd Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment
Not only do the Afghan women have different points of view on things but sometimes they are more willing to talk.
“The men are targets of intimidation tactics; the women might talk because they don’t have those pressures,” Intile said.
The job isn’t as easy as just going in to talk to the women. An Afghan Uniformed Police officer will go in and secure the premises, then tell the women to all go into one room and if there are men in the home the AUP will question them.
“The men don’t want the females to talk to us,” Alvarado said, “sometimes they will hover around and try to take over the conversation and that can be frustrating.”
“It’s challenging to try to get the women to feel comfortable with us and trust us enough to give us good information,” Cardona said.
It’s important to gain a good rapport with the women because they are more likely to confide real information instead of the bland answer that everything is fine within the community, said Hayda Azizi, an interpreter who works with the FET.
“I try and show them that I’m a wife and mother, just like them,” Cardona said. “I carry a family photo that I pass around for them to see.”
“Our interpreter plays a huge role; we would be useless without her,” Alvarado said. “She really knows how to get in and talk to the women and make them feel more comfortable.”
Even with some difficulties, the FETs have proven their effectiveness.
“We have seen great success when we use FETs; they are like any other enabler, you just have to realize how to utilize them properly,” Intile said.
This work, FET obtains vital information from Afghan women, by SSG Ruth Pagan, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.