News: Female Engagement Teams foil insurgent tactics
Story by Chief Petty Officer Michael Ard
MAZAR-E SHARIF, Afghanistan – Traditionally in Afghan culture, males attached to the Afghan National Police, Afghan National Army and coalition forces have their hands tied when it comes to insurgents using females to hide contraband.
Afghan special police now train females who are part of a unit to conduct searches when insurgents are suspected of using the women and children in the village to hide items such as weapons, drugs and other devices such as cell phones and documents.
In Afghan culture, men do not enter a woman’s room or search a female, even during an official action. Insurgents took advantage of forces who respected the customs and culture of Afghans by simply handing their weapons to the women and children of the household or even dressing themselves in burkas to avoid being searched or discovered by members of the security forces.
Four female graduates of the Afghan National Police academy recently completed an additional 10-week intensive training to become qualified as members of a Female Engagement Team.
“Having women in the platoon specially trained to search women and children, as well as protect themselves, turns the tables on insurgents,” said Jennifer, who serves as a Task Force 82 female mentor. “No longer are illegal weapons and substances going to be missed because of cultural respect. These special police females can not only safely clear a room, they can then search the women and children in it for contraband.”
These special police women are fully qualified as Afghan police and referred to as the Female Engagement Team. They conduct missions with the various platoons of the local Provincial Response Company for days at a time. The PRC acts as a provincial policing response that can be called upon for both routine community policing or specific missions as directed by the provincial chief of police.
“I do it out of desire to serve people in my home area,” said one of the FET members, not named for security reasons. “My family is proud that I have a job with a military organization, but no one knows what my actual job is. Our lives could be in danger if I told people what I actually do.”
The additional 10-week course the FET members attend after graduating from the standard ANP training course focuses more in-depth on 14 skills including live fire, self defense, combat lifesaving, search training and physical training.
“Afghan women are tough. They have a natural aggression and will to survive which comes out in a positive way during training,” said Jennifer. “There is an understanding they perform a critical role, a job that makes everyone’s job safer and a more secure territory.”
“My job as a female mentor is to be there for them for the sensitive side of feminine issues,” said Jennifer. “As a trainer, I push them to become the best police officer they can be. I know what it’s like to have to prove yourself.”
Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai has stated many times that Afghan women would keep the gains they have made as the country moves forward. The Female Engagement Team members are paid equal to their male counterparts, integrated into the PRC platoons and have a career in law enforcement ahead of them.
“I think of my job as normal,” said one of the FET members. “I have a career which allows me to care for my four daughters and two sons.”
The training hasn’t ended just because they finished their 10-week course. They are now training with their platoons, utilizing their unique skills and increasing the capabilities of the team. The development of the Female Engagement Team was necessary for the safety and success of PRC missions.
“We envision future literacy training, driver training and teaching them to become instructors,” said Jennifer. “There is a lot of sustainment training in future plans for the ladies.”