More of the Weaker Sex

Female US Marines 

See also the weaker sex in the British Army. I have to confess that I did not realize there was really a significant number of women in the USMC (although, of course, I knew there were women in front line operations).  Like a snake eating its own tail, I have now been set right by Kellie Strøm.  He links to an article by Tom Ricks which, in addition to revealing that some 6% of the 175,000 strong Leathernecks Yanks are of the distaff side, discusses the use of Female Engagement Teams as part of counter insurgency operations in Afghanistan:

First, Afghans don’t seem to mind the female teams. Paradoxically, “Female Marines are extended the respect shown to men, but granted the access reserved for women,” the report finds. “In other words, the culture is more flexible than we’ve conditioned ourselves to think.”

Second, the teams have been successful in reaching the other half of the population, one that carries disproportionate influence with the prime Taliban recruiting pool. “Local women wield more influence than many of us imagined-influence on their husbands, brothers, and especially their adolescent sons.”

When one patrol that took a FET with it was observed, the female Marines were invited inside several compounds, while the male Marines stayed outside. “And in each case, the FET succeeded in breaking the ice and getting women to open up and discuss their daily lives and concerns.” Nor was this an isolated event. When patrols returned, “we discovered some Afghan women had been anticipating the opportunity to meet American women. In one home, the women said they had caught glimpses of the patrolling FET through a crack in the wall and that they had ‘prayed you would come to us.'” The fact that the Afghan women welcomed return visits indicated that their men hadn’t punished them for speaking to Americans. 

The photograph is of a patrol from Fox Company 2nd Battalion 3rd Marines during Operation Germinate in Farah Province; taken on 7 October 2009.  They are women as well.  (Hat Tip, Akinoluna – a Female Marine.)

UPDATE – in the link to Akinoluna’s blog I provide in the annotations, one of the pictured female Marines posts with her response:

im one of the females in the photo…we were attached to that unit to search the females and to talk to them. the female population in afghanistan out number the males and then are more willing to talk to us. we were not part of the combat element, we were part of the support element. we dont go in, until it is completely secured. we have done numerous training exercises and know what we are doing… we volunteered for this. none of us are MP’s. it is out of respect for their culture that we search the females. we wear our hair down as proof that we are females because the taliban has taken photos of females searching and we look like males with all of our gear on. so, we wear our hair in a pony tail and we wear a scarf out of respect. all marines are trained the same. and to read the comment s that people put when they dont know whats going on, really makes me excited to go on R&R next month. we are not doing this for the attention, when we found out that our picutre was on the cover, we were kind of aggitated because we knew something bad was going to come out of it. im just going to end with this… we are Marines and we want to do this.. people can say whatever they want we are still going to do our job and complete our mission.

just a little p.s. we are part of the FET

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3 Responses to “More of the Weaker Sex”

  1. Kellie Strøm Says:

    Thanks for the link. More women at war here.

  2. efrafandays Says:

    No-one say, OMG girls with guns! They’ll put you in an arm-lock if you did.

    Akinoluna also discusses the female engagement teams. In response to the reports that Afghan men accepted them with the politeness shown to a woman and deference shown to a man, and that principle objections came from American male officers, she says:

    Aw come on now! Get with the program, American-supposedly-accepting-of-women-in-society officers! You’re letting Afghan men make YOU look inflexible when it comes to working with women?

    How embarrassing.

  3. The Weaker Sex Serving Afghanistan « A Rabbit's Eye View of the Hyperborean North Says:

    […] Following on from women who definitely did not need protection, here is another: and one who sadly did. […]

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