Female Engagement Teams in Afghanistan instruct women to “let pony tails show”

With our new world of shifting borders also comes a new war of border-less front lines and gender-less warriors.

Even though the Marine’s official line is still that women are not allowed into “combat branches” such as the infantry, in Afghanistan every Marine branch from infantry to infirmary has the potential to become a combat zone and every Marine, male or female, is in harm’s way.

For almost nine years, female Marines have been fighting next to their brothers as equals in Iraq and Afghanistan and yet until recently they were treated just another gender-less soldier.

But with a new Marines program called “female engagement teams”, women have been instructed to let their pony tails show and use their gender as a tool of diplomacy. The NY Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/07/world/asia/07women.html?th&emc=th) reported last week on a radical new military strategy that creates groups of female Marines specifically to interact with women in Afghanistan in order to obtain crucial information that groups of male Marines cannot obtain because of cultural restriction.

Female Marines are signing up for the new teams because as Capt. Emily Naslund says, “We know we can make a difference.” The new program is more than just a change in military policy; it is a shift in the view of the role of women in the military and in societies.

The Marines have recognized the power of both women in Afghan society and in their own ranks and after nine years, are starting to utilize that power. Although the results of the new teams have not yet been fully realized, it is clear from the Afghan public that the new teams are welcomed.

According to one Afghan man, “Your men come to fight, but we know the women are here to help.”

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