Life in Afghanistan - through the eyes of Female Engagement Team members

Pictures by Staff Sgt. Kristen Duus, 1st BCT, 1st AD
Thursday, March 14, 2013 - 11:28pm

They come from different walks of life. One, an Argentinan native, is a light-wheeled mechanic. The other, from Kalamazoo, Mich., is a cook. But they’ve been brought together by deployment, spending nearly every waking hour together. They’re members of the Female Engagement Team, attached to Courage Company, 4th Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division.

The Soldiers, who are the only two female Soldiers at Combat Outpost Jannat, had one similar goal: to make a difference on the deployment; to see real combat.

“We put ourselves out there as an asset for our company,” said Spc. Tara Johnson, the cook. “We put ourselves out there as a team for International Security Assistance Force and to the local population.”

Spc. Ana Walker, a native of Argentina, came to the states for the first time in 2004, and is married to a Soldier who is also deployed.

“I’m pretty sure that whenever people see us here, they think ‘wow, they have females out here,’ and we’re giving them the [idea] that females can do that, too,” said Walker.

Both Soldiers are mothers, leaving their children behind so they could deploy.

With the military recently announcing that women will soon be allowed in combat jobs, these Soldiers are getting a headstart on being on the frontlines, as part of the only FET company in the Army. While these women are on the frontline, they are not combat Soldiers by definition. The FET’s main objective is to be able to talk to women and children. Because of cultural lines, male Soldiers are unable to communicate with local women.

Like any Soldier on a deployment, these women face their work challenges. Though they go on several missions a week, they are not always able to talk to women and children in the villages.

“[Locals] know what we’re capable of doing,” said Johnson. “They know that we’re here to assist them and help them, but initially, it’s up to them.”

While some locals welcome the Soldiers’ help, others are still apprehensive about having the women
 

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