Breaking Barriers: Female Engagement Team builds friendships in the Middle East

Amphibious Squadron Five
Story by Petty Officer 3rd Class Danielle Baker

Date: 09.01.2019
Posted: 09.11.2019 10:28
News ID: 339654
11TH MEU FET Meets with Jordan Armed Forces Quick Reaction Force Female Engagement Team

U.S. Marines and Sailors assigned to the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) Female Engagement Team (FET) completed a knowledge and training exchange with the Jordan Armed Forces (JAF) Quick Reaction Force (QRF) FET in Jordan.

The 11th MEU FET is comprised of female Marines embarked on USS Boxer (LHD 4), USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49) and USS John P. Murtha (LPD 26). Together, they built relationships and friendships with members of the JAF QRF FET over the two-week training course.

Most of the friendships were formed during the first week when the Marines, known for their emphasis on marksmanship, worked one-on-one with the Jordanians at the small-arms range. Each Marine mentored a JAF team member and helped them with their shooting techniques in the prone, sitting and kneeling positions.

Marine Sgt. Molly Lewis formed a friendship with Asmaa Al-share while coaching her.

“The first day we weren’t talking,” said Lewis. “It was just me telling her different ways to execute her shooting position. I would say the second or third day was when we were really like, ‘let’s laugh and have a good time and be more personal,’ I think it kind of flourished on its own.”

Lewis said the first time the pair reviewed targets, she was amazed how well Al-share shot. After that, Lewis made it a point to encourage Al-share and let her know how well she was doing.

They further bonded when Al-share asked Lewis how she dealt with not getting a good shot group or not hitting the target where she wants to.

“I would tell her that we’re not all perfect, and it all comes down to having that positive mentality and knowing you’re not going to be perfect overnight. It’s something you have to work at and practice at,” said Lewis. “I kind of felt like I was talking to myself sometimes because I’m so tough on myself, and she’s the same way.”

Al-share said her favorite part was winning first place with Lewis at the range competition at the end of the week. Even though they were scored together, she did her best to try to outscore Lewis. She loved the competition between them.

“I was really hoping that we were going to win because I knew how good she was,” said Lewis.

The second week of the exchange was more classroom oriented.

“It was different not being able to interact one-on-one with them like we did at the range,” said Lewis. “I was really appreciative of the first week and being able to build that relationship with Asmaa.”

Building those relationships with the Jordanians did not come without its challenges.

“It was weird having to always ask for a translator,” said Lewis. “I like getting all my thoughts out – all at once – and not having to pause in between, but you learn how to change the way you form your sentences and that you can’t talk fast or say too much.”

Lewis said one of her favorite parts of the exchange was growing closer with the Jordanians, recalling how different things were the first day compared to the last day of the exchange.

The first day, when the Marines walked into the classroom and met the Jordanians, each team was separated on each side of the room and it was exceptionally quiet. The last day, they did not want to say goodbye and could not stop taking pictures with each other.

“We were all more integrated and closer to each other. We felt more comfortable sitting next to each other laughing, joking and taking selfies,” said Lewis. “One picture after another. It makes my heart so happy that we ended on such a great, positive note because I was hoping it would get to that level.”

After the barriers were broken, the Marines discovered they were not so different from the Jordanians.

“Even though, as Americans, we’re raised differently and our thoughts and ideas are much different than theirs, it was awesome being able to relate to them in jokes and what we like to do outside of work and interacting with our friends,” said Lewis.

The Marines’ experience produced comraderie and friendship between themselves and the Jordanians.

“We all bring something different to the table. What I might lack, someone else makes up for. We complement each other really well,” said Lewis. “The knowledge we all gained and expanded on during the time before and leading up to the exchange kind of set in stone that we were all here for a reason, and we each have a purpose.”

Many Marines don’t get to experience different cultures and see how things are done in another country’s military.

“We all learned so much from one another,” said Lewis. “We saw how people different from us work. We gained so much experience in the different periods of instruction when we were teaching the Jordanians and they were teaching us how they do things.”

Lewis said along with the leadership styles they all brought to the table, getting to know each other on a personal and professional level and seeing how similar and different they were was the best part. At the end of the day, they were all pretty similar.