BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan – Five U.S. Army soldiers are the first to take part in a new counter-IED training course designed by Combined Joint Task Force Paladin specifically for Female Engagement Team members.
The five, all military intelligence analysts assigned to the 2nd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division at Bagram, participated in the three-day course Sept. 16-18. The course included training in unexploded ordnance awareness, biometrics, forensics, evidence collection, tactical questioning, vehicle and personnel searches, as well as a course of instruction on how homemade explosives are made and how to recognize possible HME manufacturing sites.
All five – Staff Sgt. Melissa Telford of Columbia, S.C.; Sgt. Leah Mallett of Battle Ground, Wash.; Sgt. Katherine Restko of Chicago; Cpl. Alice Curtis of Plains, Texas; and Spc. Jenna Bruxvoort of Wayland, Mich. – deployed to Afghanistan from Ft. Hood, Texas, about two months ago and volunteered for duty with the Female Engagement Team after arriving in country. Duty with the FET will take them “outside the wire” on a regular basis, something that provided the impetus for the new training course, said CJTF Paladin trainer Jean Paul Stassi.
“Originally they just asked for training on basic visual recognition, or what they need to look for while they’re out there,” Stassi said of the initial request for counter-IED training from the Soldiers’ unit. After talking with the Paladin training section, the unit decided more training would be beneficial to the FET members, especially since they’ll be expected to interact with Afghan women as part of their duties and could be called on to search them and collect evidence that might be found.
“They need to understand the evidence collection procedures so they can bring back that evidence for use in prosecutions in Afghan courts,” Stassi said. “The tour of the labs (where evidence such as fingerprints and DNA are analyzed) showed them the end results of that evidence collection.”
All five Soldiers volunteered for duty with the FET after hearing from another unit that having females Soldiers attached to units engaging the local populace would be helpful. Afghan culture dictates that men who are not family members should not talk to or interact with women, making the FET members a valuable asset in gathering information during those engagements.
“We’ll be going out and doing a job that is necessary,” Restko said.
“It’s a job that would go undone otherwise,” added Mallett.
While they will probably need to attend more training as part of the FET process, the soldiers said they felt the Paladin training would be beneficial to them.
“This is very helpful, especially the vehicle and personnel search training,” Bruxvoort said. “It’s been pretty interesting.” In addition to the FET training, CJTF Paladin offers training both on Bagram and at other locations throughout Afghanistan using embedded and traveling training teams.