CAMP PENDLETON, CA, UNITED STATES
MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. - A group of 48 female Marines are about to prove why women matter in war.
The new Female Engagement Team formed and met for the first time here recently to begin training for its upcoming spring deployment to Afghanistan.
The FET program evolved from the Marine Corps Lioness program where female Marines were assigned to search the Iraqi women and children because cultural norms forbid men from touching or speaking to them.
The FET mission evolved as Marines realized that more progress could be made in Afghanistan if they reached a large percent of the population prohibited from speaking to male infantry.
When the time comes, the FET will primarily be called upon to reach a critical demographic of Afghan culture only females have access to: the women.
"It started out as a trial period," said Sgt. Sheena Adams, FET platoon leader and instructor. "Marines learned the language and went out there to try to talk to people to see how the community turned toward them."
The Marines will undergo scenario-based training to help them learn how to interact with the women, embed themselves in the culture and prepare themselves for any situation.
The Marines also have a chance to learn Dari and Pashto, two prominent spoken languages in Afghanistan to allow the Marines to break down language barriers as much as possible.
"It's going to be a lot of trial and error, learning what really works and what does not work because each village is different," Adams said.
"There are certain things I can say and do in one village, and the people would think it was awesome; but people in other villages would not really understand."
For many of the FET members, a deployment to Afghanistan and interaction with the culture will be a first-time experience, but Cpl. Daisy Romero, logistics embarkation specialist with 3rd Marine Air Wing, Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., decided to volunteer her services for the second time.
"I think everything was unique about what we did," Romero said.
"Whenever the infantrymen or the males can't get into the compound because of the Afghanistan women, we erase that boundary."
Romero was witness to many of the FET's recent accomplishments during her first deployment, where the teams helped set up schools and provided medical assistance.
Romero explained how the FET has accomplished a lot during its previous deployment in Afghanistan.
"When we got to our [area of operation], there were no clinics established," Romero said. "There weren't any schools established and the schools that were established were war-torn."
Romero said by her unit left Afghanistan they established grounds for a female doctor and midwife to practice her profession. The doctor and midwife was seeing more than 20 patients per day and more than 60 girls and 90 boys were attending school.
Marines like Sgt. Julie Nicholson, Combat Logistics Regiment 17 supply administration specialist, expressed their eagerness to get out there and put their training to the test.
"It's really motivating," Nicholson said. "I'm excited to deploy."
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