Family is one of the most important parts of Afghan culture. In most households in Afghanistan, only a woman’s father, brother, or husband may see her face or speak to her.
All other men who attempt to interact with her are said to have dishonored her, and her family.??Women make up more than 50 percent of the Afghan population and this has put Soldiers at a disadvantage when trying to discuss serious issues with local populations.
As paratroopers with 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division prepare to deploy in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, they established a female engagement team in order to level the playing field.
The FET, as they are known, consists of female Soldiers whose main focus is to speak to and search Afghan women and children.
“The purpose is to minimize the effectiveness of the insurgency, and when you violate their cultural norms, you have the potential of creating more insurgents,” said Staff Sgt. Marcus Belt, the 3rd BCT psychological operations noncommissioned officer. “By using women to search females and children, you’ve minimized your exposure to those violations.
“The FET can reach an entire segment of the population that we, as males, would not,” said Belt. “This gives us another means of gathering information as women are generally viewed as less threatening by the Afghan male.”
For paratroopers to become a member of this team, they must volunteer and meet a variety of physical fitness and mental agility requirements before receiving training.??Soldiers assigned to the FET received a week’s worth of training, said Capt. Wayne Walker, 3rd BCT civil affairs officer.
The training consisted of stability operations, cross-cultural communications, counter insurgency training, Pashtu language training, and how to participate in key leader engagements.
Members of the FET will work in two-person elements with each infantry company and they will live and work among them for the duration of the deployment.
Prior to deployment, members of the FET were put in contact with other females who have previously deployed and have experience working as a FET to give them an idea of what to expect, said Walker.
The FET will also help Afghans by holding medical and hygiene workshops. These workshops will provide Afghan women with skills that will benefit them in their day-to-day lives, said Belt.