Women in the United States military are not allowed to serve on the front lines in the infantry. But Corporal Kathryn Mannion, 24, took part in a program in Afghanistan that led her on patrols and into villages. She volunteered to be a part of the Marine Corps's first Female Engagement Team (FET). The team deployed to Afghanistan for seven months in March 2010.
"It was a great experience," Mannion told TFK. "Hopefully, other women will get a chance to participate."
Local Afghan customs limit interaction between men and women who are not related. Male Marines cannot speak to Afghan women. But female Marines can reach out to women and children. The American women are breaking down barriers between the U.S. military and Afghanis.
As FET Marines talk to villagers, they gather information. They also offer medical care and help Afghans in other ways.
First Sergeant Tina Dexter, 35, helped develop FET training. The women get defensive combat training. But they also take culture and language classes. "You have to be able to carry on a conversation with the poorest villager all the way up to district governors," Dexter says.
Demand for FET troops is growing. A second team deployed in October 2010. "For women who want a career in the military, it opens up more opportunities," Dexter told TFK.
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