Apr 1, 2010
Marines "Female Engagement Team" making a difference!
Female Engagement Team Plays Unique Role For Marines In Afghanistan
American Morning (CNN), 31 Mar 2010
KIRAN CHETRY: Well, there is nothing unusual about women serving in the military now, thousands of them stationed in Afghanistan right now and most of them assigned to bases far from enemy contact. Except for two young Marines who are on a mission deep inside Helmand Province, in a location littered with roadside bombs.
Pentagon correspondent Chris Lawrence introduces us to America's Female Engagement Team in this "A.M. Original".
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Just about everyone told these two Marines, sure you deploy to Afghanistan, but you'll never leave the base.
MARINE LANCE CPL. GIADA WITT: They're like, yes, there's zero percent chance that you'll be leaving the wire ever.
LAWRENCE: But here they are, in a remote, heavily IED part of Helmand Province, on foot in Afghan villages.
WITT: Salaam Alaikum.
LAWRENCE: Lance Corporal Giada Witt and Corporal Christina Arana are part of FET or Female Engagement Team.
The Marines realized they were only reaching half the Afghan people, but Witt and Arana can go where male Marines can't -- into the homes of Afghan women.
MARINE CPL. CHRISTINA ARANA: Since this culture believes that the women can't meet with the men, they have to keep themselves covered.
LAWRENCE: Even our crew has to stop at the gate to avoid offending the man who owns this home.
LAWRENCE: I know they seem to be marginalized, but do you think that Afghan women have a good deal of influence within their family?
WITT: Absolutely. And they're definitely a key player in getting information.
LAWRENCE: In a counterinsurgency fight, if a woman tells the team they need a new wall and the Marines get it built, it improves their acceptance in the village. And the women may know from their husbands who the bad guys are.
Women only make up 6 percent of the U.S. Marine Corps and they're not allowed to join infantry or recon.
ARANA: Or it can always (INAUDIBLE). You have to meet with the people. You have to understand them. (END VIDEOTAPE)
LAWRENCE: Yes, and to do that, they receive some training before they're deployed here. Some of it is a cultural awareness, specifically about the area of Afghanistan that they're going to.
The other is a more extended refresher course on combat training. In fact, one of them said, one of the drills they had to do was just do a tremendous amount of push-ups, hop up, go in a full sprint, stop and then fire accurately. It's supposed to get them used to firing under pressure, which is something they may have to do here in Helmand.
CHETRY: Intense training, but an intense mission. Is this a permanent program, by the way, a full-time job for them?
LAWRENCE: No, it's not. These teams are kind of thrown together by female Marines who also have other jobs, and that's one of the things that critics say. You know, they're getting pulled back into their own units.
They say, if this is yielding good information, if it's yielding good relations, then it should be more of a permanent full-time thing where they are allowed to spend months and months at a time, you know, cultivating those relationships.
CHETRY: All right. Chris Lawrence giving us a firsthand look.