Letting Women Reach Women in Afghan War | New York Times

Monica Almeida/The New York Times
Female Marines at Camp Pendleton, Calif., will be sent to Helmand Province next month to try to win over rural Afghan women.

CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. — The Marines in a recent “cultural awareness” class scribbled careful notes as the instructor coached them on do’s and don’ts when talking to villagers in Afghanistan: Don’t start by firing off questions, do break the ice by playing with the children, don’t let your interpreter hijack the conversation. And one more thing: “If you have a pony tail,” said Marina Kielpinski, the instructor, “let it go out the back of your helmet so people can see you’re a woman.”

These are not your mother’s Marines here in the rugged California chaparral of Camp Pendleton, where 40 young women are preparing to deploy to Afghanistan in one of the more forward-leaning experiments of the American military.

Next month they will begin work as members of the first full-time “female engagement teams,” the military’s name for four- and five-member units that will accompany men on patrols in Helmand Province to try to win over the rural Afghan women who are culturally off limits to outside men. The teams, which are to meet with the Afghan women in their homes, assess their need for aid and gather intelligence, are part of Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal’s campaign for Afghan hearts and minds. His officers say that you cannot gain the trust of the Afghan population if you only talk to half of it.

Monica Almeida/The New York Times
About 40 women will be split into units that will accompany men on patrols to meet with the Afghan women in their homes.

“We know we can make a difference,” said Capt. Emily Naslund, 26, the team’s executive officer and second in command. Like the other 39 women, Captain Naslund volunteered for the program and radiates exuberance, but she is not naïve about the frustrations and dangers ahead. Half of the women have been deployed before, most to Iraq.

“We all know that what you expect is not usually what it’s going to end up being,” said Sgt. Melissa Hernandez, 35, who signed on because she wanted something different from her office job at Camp Victory, the American military headquarters in Baghdad.

Monica Almeida/The New York Times
Cpl. Michele Greco-Lucchina, center, led a group during a “cultural awareness” exercise last month at Camp Pendleton, Calif.

As envisioned, the teams will work like American politicians who campaign door to door and learn what voters care about. A team is to arrive in a village, get permission from the male elder to speak with the women, settle into a compound, hand out school supplies and medicine, drink tea, make conversation and, ideally, get information about the village, local grievances and the Taliban. Read more here…

Posted via web from Women Marines on the web


2 comments on “Letting Women Reach Women in Afghan War | New York Times

  1. Once again the Marine Corps, is stepping up to the plate and taking the lead on issues that matter, to all! When foreign countries ask, for assistance, it should be policy that those who come to help be “schooled” on the customs of their host country (countries). I do not think Americans would appreciate it if foreigners come to America to provide assistance and impose their beliefs and not learn American customs.

  2. You women make me pause and ask myself… and what have you done with your life…

    When the rich and famous pass, there is such a fuss made, and many times abuse of something or the other plays a part.

    I don’t understand why our country idolizes some of the people they do. Those folks live such self-centered lives. Even when they reach out to humanity… they have to have lots of reporters and cameras, makes one wonder at their motives.

    But you women, you are cut from a different cloth. You live lives that I want my children and grand-children to emulate, that I want in some way to emulate.

    There are people whom I stand in awe of… the women, and those like them, spoken of on this site are magnificent! Your lives honor those who bore you, those you love, the country you come from, and the God of the Universe.

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