April 1st, 2010
07:38 AM ET

Going where male Marines can't

Camp Cafferetta, Helmand Province – Cpl. Christina Arana and Lance Cpl. Giada Witt check their weapons one last time, and leave the base behind. On the other side of the wire is … well, Afghanistan. The real country. It’s a long way from the relatively secure and well-supplied large bases – the places where most female soldiers and Marines are stationed. The two women are part of FET, or Female Engagement Team.

It’s a program started last year, when the U.S. Marine Corps realized it was only reaching half the population. The Marines mostly operate in the more rural, conservative areas in southern Afghanistan. There, men are not allowed to look at – let alone talk to – women. So the predominantly male Marine units were missing a chance to engage 50 percent of the Afghan people.

The military has found that while Afghan women may seem outwardly marginalized, they do have a good deal of influence within their homes – especially over young sons, who make up Afghanistan’s next generation. Also in rural areas, Afghan women often meet amongst themselves, and share information about the village. Afghan men don’t place the same restrictions on speaking to Western women. So the FET Marines first have to engage – and gain the trust of – the man of the house. Once he is comfortable with them, he’ll often invite them into his home to speak with his wife.

FET is designed to put trained female Marines into areas where the U.S. military is trying to win over the Afghan people. They get special training before being deployed. The women are taught the history of the Taliban, and some of the cultural awareness issues specific to different parts of the country. Some of these lessons are supplied by input from actual Afghan women from those areas.

Because they will be operating outside the wire, often on foot with Marine patrols, they also take an extended refresher course in combat training. This includes increasing their awareness of ambushes and sniper attacks, and learning more about convoy operatons. Witt says one of the exercises involves doing a lot of push-ups, jumping up into a full sprint and then stopping to fire. The training is designed to increase their ability to fire under pressure, something most female Marines don’t have as much experience with. FET grew out of the “Lioness” program in Iraq, where female Marines searched Iraqi women at checkpoints.

Women only make up about 6 percent of the Marine Corps. And FET teams are still staffed in an ad hoc way, thrown together with women who have other jobs and responsibilities. That means a FET team could spend a month or so establishing relationships within a particular village, and then be summoned back to their “home unit.” Some critics of this practice say, if the FET program is producing good results, it should be staffed full-time. And women should be allowed to spend longer periods of time training and deploying to their designated areas.

soundoff (125 Responses)
  1. Daniel

    To all of you who keep commenting about these female Marines being blood thirsty or the "right-wing mob mentatlity," did any of you actually read this article while setting your biased aside?

    These FET teams are not trainined infantry women. There purpose is not to destroy the enemy. They are given combat skill refresher courses for self defense purposes. I have been to Afghanistan, we get attacked. Would you prefer they assume the fetal position and let the men do the fighting when they could help save their own lives or the lives of others around them?

    The purpose of these FET teams is to reach out to the Afghan community... that's it plain and simple. These Marines have VOLUNTEERED!!! to help. It would be irresponsible of us not to give them the skills to survive should they find themselves in the thick of a fire fight.

    April 2, 2010 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Atiq Ur Rehman

    There is only one solution for peace in Afghanistan. Ameria please leave us.

    April 2, 2010 at 11:56 am | Report abuse |
  3. Daniel

    I will never understand the callousness of these women.When I was ten years old,I killed a turtle wantonly and it still bothers me to this day that I did such a dastardly thing.And the people who blog in here touting all this killing frankly make me sick.

    April 2, 2010 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |
  4. Proud Husband

    I am a Marine Combat Veteran and have served our Corps and Country for the last 17yrs. I am also proud to say that my wife is a Marine as well. She joined the Marine Corps for the same reason that i did. To serve our country and defend our freedom. I am proud of the sacrifices that she has made and support her career like she supports mine. Female Marines dont ask or expect to be treated different. We all share the same title that very few will ever earn. United States Marine!! To the men and women who provide the very blanket of freedom that every American sleeps under every night, I am proud to serve by your side regarless of race, sex, or creed. SEMPER FIDELIS

    April 2, 2010 at 9:53 am | Report abuse |
  5. Toby

    Ooorah marines. I was in the Marines from 2005- 2009. Infantry. 3rd battalion 4th marines. Ive done two combat tours to Iraq. People are disgusted with the mentality of our service men and women that deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan, in the infantry we are taught to kill. People hate on us for having to kill a human being but over there its kill or be killed. I did what i had to to do survive my deployments and to protect my fellow Marines and to make Iraq a better place, just as everyone else has done thats gone over there. We have to be in that kind of mindset to kill, I am just voicing my opinion and giving a little insight to people about how i feel about it. Its easy to hate on people that go over there because they have never been in that type of situation before. You do what you have to do to get the job done. Th

    Semper Fi Marines

    April 2, 2010 at 4:27 am | Report abuse |
  6. Dillon Anderson

    Honestly, females in the USMC are responsible for the downfall of discipline in the Corps. They are NOT the same! I say again, THEY ARE NOT THE SAME. The Marine Corps has watered down standards for females. If you want to believe something about females, then believe that they are completely worthless in the MC. If you read this and are a WM, get out b/c no one wants you.

    April 2, 2010 at 2:33 am | Report abuse |
  7. USN Veteran and Momma of 5 Girls

    Thank you Ladies for not only doing a commendable job, but for being members of an ALL-VOLUNTEER FORCE, who recognize, we still have FREEDOMS in this Country worth fighting for!

    Many of the posts above have brought a smile to my face... and many have brought a furrow to my brow that conveys... yep, your Momma must not have gently pinched your arm when you said something inappropriate in public, she must not have washed your mouth out with dish-soap when you continued, and she definitely didn't tanned your hide enough as a child!

    Thank you Soldiers for being able to lay aside any political prejudices you may be holding, to write a blank check made payable to the United States of America for an amount up to, and including, your life! That is honor that way too many people in this Country today, do not understand!

    As one of the first Females on the ground serving during Desert Storm, I Thank You, and I only wish we could have mopped up when we were there the first time... so that this generation was not left the task to finish the job.

    And to all those who would like to post negative or derogatory comments at this time: just remember... Whiskey Tango (your) Foxtrot! Please find your way to the nearest exit... we have one to the north and one available to the south... or find your way back to your homeland... you are free to leave at any time... we will gladly be taking back our country at this time 🙂

    April 2, 2010 at 1:30 am | Report abuse |
  8. jon russo

    I think that's a really good idea, it will give women of afghanistan to explore and be more active.

    April 1, 2010 at 11:33 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Mark Rogers

    Everyone who complains about "a shoot'em up mentality" or cringes at the thought of someone killing someone should go and live in Afghanistan and see if their approach towards reaching out to the civilians in the midst of the Talbian or AQ works. Sometimes and more often than not in this world that we inhabit it take men and women who are trained to kill in defense of others to go out and do the hard work. If the women were not trained to defend themselves or others with deadly force that would be just plain stupid on the part of whoever sent them. War is hell! The quicker it is prosecuted the better and anyone in the military would agree with this.

    April 1, 2010 at 10:27 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Cpl Judah

    @people complaining about women getting a taste for "killing".

    Lcpl Witt is a fantastic Marine (worked with her for the last two years). "Killing" is about the last thing she is interested in. Don't assume that your bias will tell you everything about someone. It's very very rude. You know nothing about our job, about our culture. In my limited time as a Marine, if I had to sum up all the training into a simple statement I would say this: "Marines save lives." At the end of the day, that's the point.

    For those that support us, thank you.

    April 1, 2010 at 10:08 pm | Report abuse |
  11. note2cnn

    .
    Two truths:
    1. The US Military is the greatest fighting force on this planet.
    2. The US Military is also the greatest humanitarian organization on earth.
    Stay safe out there.

    April 1, 2010 at 8:16 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Bob

    OK Ladies, you now have what you wanted which is total equality. There are some tremendous women Marines who have fought and died with their brothers in arms. As was written above this is about women engagement, in the dirt, in the danger and bypassing all the generations of oppression of the Taliban. America should be proud of its Marines, male and female. Semper Fi!

    April 1, 2010 at 7:09 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Pete

    Semper Fi all the way. I am a Marine and am proud that our female marines are doing a job that the men would not be able to. However, due to the already low quantity of female marines why doesnt the army start a program like this as they have far more bodies to cover a wider area and broader spectrum. But as was said earlier for those that dont have military experience it is not easy to understand. This war is not meant to be won or lost as some have put it but to be fought with humility and compassion whenever possible while understanding it is a warzone. If the time comes to shoot then the time comes and it shall be done. God bless em all.

    April 1, 2010 at 4:39 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Andrea

    Great story. Yes, most of the women are placed in non-combat jobs, but that is not to say that their duties are any less important in the overall scheme of things. I am especially proud to see the USMC using these female Marine's and placing them from behind the desk. Very inspiring. Keep it up Marine Corps. Semper Fi.

    April 1, 2010 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
  15. JGMDGO

    And well said Msgt Mike.

    April 1, 2010 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
  16. JGMDGO

    Great story. US Marines are US Marines, period. No matter what the gender. The ladies can pull their weight and get the job done. Come home safely and very soon all of you; and thank you so very much for protecting all of us here at home.

    April 1, 2010 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse |
  17. Tony

    You know there’s just something about a woman in uniform that works for me;) But not sure I could take orders from a woman. U can tell I never been married! But hats off to our troops over there we proud of you all. And you all are doing a fantastic job. Come home safe!

    April 1, 2010 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
  18. fred

    Apparently this article is written at to high of a grade level fo some folks.
    I says NOTHING about women killing... It speaks of adapting out military to middle eastern
    culture.
    get a clue
    Good job marines

    April 1, 2010 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
  19. Joy Lyn

    Nice story! Good Job Marines!

    April 1, 2010 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
  20. Mike

    Women have always been an asset to the Corps. It's about time they have the ability to fully engage any role available to the male Marine. I am most grateful to any member of the armed service for making that hard choice to serve in a role PREDOMINATLY for the purpose of Protecting an Defending. There is NO aggression Implied. Service members are not taught to kill others but rather to preserve life, First and foremost their own. If anyone thinks it is different, I respectfully request they engage their local recruiter, Enlist and serve a tour or two anywhere aggression is the rule of the land. Its one thing to sit in the comfort of your living room Judging the role played by any service member and quite another to walk in their shoes. It scares the hell out of you not knowing if you will be back for supper and knowing that OWR role is Protect and Serve while the other guys has a role to Attack and destroy. I salute all our armed forces members yet have a special place in my heart for my brothers in arms. Always the First to fight. Semper Fi. Msgt USMC Retired.

    April 1, 2010 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
  21. Hilary MacDougall

    Semper Fi Marines! FET trains female Marines to do a very important job, and should permit these soldiers to do this job full time if they choose. FET requires exceptional interpersonal skills and cultural sensitivity to be successful. In my opinion, this is not a job to move soldiers in and out of. Regarding the need for combat training – these are Marines working in forward areas – they damn well better be trained for combat!

    April 1, 2010 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
  22. Samuel Garcia

    Ah...You've gotta love another pointless, politically-motivated, feelgood story from CNN.

    April 1, 2010 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
  23. Raoul

    Good job ladies! Keep up the good work and make your country proud!

    April 1, 2010 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
  24. Eddie Pacheco Jr

    Great job by your correspondent reporter Chris Lawrence on The FET Team. My daughter was recently deployed and is part of this team. To be honest this piece and the reality of it made me a little anxious however I know she is backed by the best military in the world and she makes me proud to be a Marine's Dad.

    GO FET

    April 1, 2010 at 3:50 pm | Report abuse |
  25. Michael Lane

    I'm glad to see the Marines continuing to push interaction over suppressing fire. It pays dividends. Hopefully someone far, far up the CoC will take note and make the FETs an official force rather than a catch-as-catch-can stopgap.

    To the posters blathering about "taste for killing" – you're showing an ignorance as deep as that of those who scream for the immediate invasion of Iran. And, possibly, an ignorance that's even less forgivable.

    April 1, 2010 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
  26. MSgt Murray USMC (Ret)

    Again, leave it to the Marines to be leaps and bounds ahead of the other services. Women Marines (WM's) have always played an extremely important role in the Modern day Marine Corps and this just goes to show that a Marine is a Marine is a Marine! Semper Fidelis!

    April 1, 2010 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
  27. Jhb

    I'm glad the Marines are finding value in what women can bring to the table, and not just trying to make them do what men do. I bet these brave Marine's would do even better without a giant gun strapped to their chest when they entered someone's home? By recognizing the power of the female inside the walls of the house, you now have an Afghan advocate who is someone's mother and wife (and don't we all have to listen to our Mother?)

    April 1, 2010 at 3:46 pm | Report abuse |
  28. Sum Yung Gai

    Hey, I'm all for it. Former military myself. If we can get the Afghan mothers on our side, maybe their sons won't hate us so much when they get older. Good work, Marines!

    BTW, lots of push-ups are good for you no matter your sex, military status, or anything else. I still do 'em.

    April 1, 2010 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
  29. Laura

    They just came onto this idea last year????? Even Glenn Beck (a simpleton in my view) has always said the key to this is getting the women involved.

    April 1, 2010 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
  30. V Hanzel

    Great job ladies! It appears that this has been treated as more of an experiment than a real strategy. Maybe it is time for leaders to take notice and understand the importance of women in the changing of a culture, no matter what the region. Thank you for covering this and I encourage CNN to be proactive following-up coverage whether the program is able to get its rightful foothold in the overall war strategy.

    April 1, 2010 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
  31. Joey

    What a woman marine can do when an Afghan man decided to shop a woman's noze and ears for some reasons or another?. Probably nothing. The reality is, we are still risking that woman marine's life for some people that still lives in the stone age. What we are going to accomplished in Afghanistan are more casualties for some poppy fields that might end up in the wrong hands. We need to bring them here to protect our southern borders.

    April 1, 2010 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
  32. mj

    Several posters missed the whole point of this article. This is not about killing and shooting, it is about winning the trust of the locals. Trying to prevent more of the violence and killing. My daughter is Army and she will tell anyone that it is about the people and helping them. Some times it takes strength not to just shoot em up.

    April 1, 2010 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
  33. Darek Johnson

    Semper Fi!

    April 1, 2010 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse |
  34. Doug

    Semper Fi Ladies, doing such a great job there, for those people who complain about the US killing people in a "Despicable War" just remember who started this war the people who crashed planes into two building and the pentagon, and in the fields of Pennsylvania, I am sure they gave a damn about how evil it is to kill people, this same enemy the Taliban and al Qaeda would kill you if it had the chance and not have remorse for what they did, someone has to put a stop to it, if you have a better way besides talking with the enemy who does not care to listen, then instead of complaining about war do something about it, if not, shut your mouth and pick up a rifle, history has shown that at times war is necessary.

    April 1, 2010 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
  35. Tim

    It is too bad Daniel & Lennybaby don't have the capacity to understand their 'privilege' (not right) to sit in their Pajama's in front of their little computer and spout hate is due to many WARS, from the Revolutionary, Civil, WWI, WWII, etc that has ENSURED our Freedoms as Americans. Ya'll go Google the word FREEDOM. It's NEVER Free.

    April 1, 2010 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
  36. dragon

    this fet is needed and expand it when can and let the ladies serve longer time to do job right ele we wont win the war over there i know that much.

    April 1, 2010 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
  37. John

    Anybody think "The Maine Corps Female Engagement Team "aims" for the rest" shows a poor choice of words???

    April 1, 2010 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
  38. usmc1

    I hope you guys are kidding with this right wing stuff. Its pretty ridiculous. Stop the bleeding hearts please.

    April 1, 2010 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
  39. SGT Richmond

    The vast majority of my fellow Veterans and folks that are still on Active Duty today didn't join up because they had a taste for killing Lenny. It has nothing to do with left or right wing mob mentality, politics mean nothing to the soldier on the ground, just the safety of their buddies, and the accomplishment of their mission. The ignorance displayed in posts like yours is amazing, but I guess thats why there are people willing to risk their lives for the betterment on this country and this world. Let me ask you, when you are dead and and gone, what impact will you have had on this world? I can think of numerous hospitals and schools that I played a part in building while deployed to Afghanistan that will be here long after I'm gone and I'm guessing there will be some very thankful Afghans even if they don't know my name.

    April 1, 2010 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse |
  40. us marine

    if you watch the video again she is walking right outside of her camp look at the hesco barriers on her right. this story is bull. all hype everyone knows grunts do the leg work then some somone comes in with a video camera and makes this video 10 ft from the gate

    April 1, 2010 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
  41. Nick

    Daniel and Lenny, I understand your very valid reservations but you're missing the point. First, any Marine has to be proficient in combat actions or they would be helpless victims on the battlefield. Further these female Marines are breaking down barriers in the Marine Corps about not only the need for women in all aspects of our Corps, but more importantly, showing doubters that they can perform right alongside every Marine and in front of many. Finally, in regards to your commments about the gunslinger metality, these programs are how we avoid shooting. After 3 tours in Iraq, I can promise that we don't want to have to shoot anymore than absolutely necessary. If we never fire another round, it is the best measure of success there is. This counterinsurgency means engaging the people (in this case especially, the women), bringing the enemy to our side, and providing a common understanding for reconciliation and security.

    Your concerns are important and, as an active duty Marine, I truly value seeing your opinions. In light of these, I hope you understand that these women as well as the male Marines in Afghanistan are trying hard to protect the population and end the misery and suffering that continues to plague Afghanistan.

    April 1, 2010 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
  42. Al

    Great we're playing by the enemies rules, that should make them happy! Maybe they'll just all give up.

    April 1, 2010 at 3:15 pm | Report abuse |
  43. Pete

    Kudos to these lionesses.
    Female/male... who cares? All Marines are awesome. They volunteer to serve in harm's way to protect our nation, and freedom in general.
    War sucks, but if the alternative is religious extremism or slavery, war's a pretty good option.

    April 1, 2010 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
  44. cregis

    I'll cheer when our troops come home.

    April 1, 2010 at 3:07 pm | Report abuse |
  45. Greg H

    Some more of this shoot'em up mentality.I can't believe so many people consider killing people a "good" thing.We need to try to find a way out of this dispicable war as the right-wing news media rarely reports on the human misery and suffering aspect of this war.

    Posted by: Daniel

    DANIEL: you serious? it's either kill or be killed or watch innocent people be killed! wake up from your fantasy.....this is the real world!

    April 1, 2010 at 3:04 pm | Report abuse |
  46. Laura

    What? In spite of those "infections" that Newt warned us against?

    April 1, 2010 at 3:03 pm | Report abuse |
  47. alicia

    I wish I had the courage to do what these women do... Ooh Rah!

    April 1, 2010 at 3:02 pm | Report abuse |
  48. Michael

    Lennybaby, if everyone in the US thought the way you do over the course of our past history, we would be seeing swastikas all over right now. Actually, we wouldn't have even won our independence. In a perfect world.......in a perfect world. Too bad we don't live in one.

    April 1, 2010 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |
  49. Deanna

    This is my first comment ever and I just wanted to say thank you for this focus on our female soldiers. My daughter is Army and has also performed this type of mission while serving in Afgahnistan. I am so proud of her. She joined the Army to protect and serve, not to develop a taste for killing. I too hate war and death but I would in a moment protect my freedoms and loved ones if threatened. Enough said

    April 1, 2010 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |
  50. Alex

    Great story. It's refreshing to hear about cultural sensitivity, engaging more women stationed in Afghanistan, and the (seeminly) positive reception these women are receiving as part of the FET. I hope CNN writes more articles like this in the future. Bravo.

    April 1, 2010 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |
  51. Sandra

    I think the women in FET are awesome. They're definitely worth looking up to! All females in each branch of the Military deserve every bit of respect. The males are amazing, too! Good luck and thank you, FET!

    April 1, 2010 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
  52. Daniel2

    Daniel and Lennybaby obviously you have never been in the military and therefore have no concept of what is trying to be done. By getting ladies in contact with local indeginous female population increases the locals awarness of us and that we are not there to merely kill others. Sorry to say but being in the military is not all about killing others. We deploy on a great many aid relief programs since we have the capability and organization to do so. The Marines are trying to help our peolpe and the Afghanies as well with their backward views. I have been there as well myself and seen that it is a hard fight but needs to be done.

    April 1, 2010 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
  53. magusap

    more power to you women. i would be so scared being there and being a woman, too. if the american men soldiers get tortured, beat up, or killed by the enemy what more will they do to a woman soldier? i am proud of you men and women for doing this. our Lord has his angels in heaven and he gave us his angels here on earth. thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you...

    April 1, 2010 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
  54. Robert

    Daniel and Lennybaby:
    Where, in this article, is there any mention of these women enjoying killing people or developing a "shoot 'em up mentality?"

    Do you make this assumption based on the fact that they had to undergo combat training to do this job, or just that they joined the military in the first place?

    Based on this article, it appears that what they're doing will ultimately get us out of there faster and with fewer casualties (on either side) than if they weren't doing it. We still don't have to like the war, but perhaps it would be best to be a little more circumspect about the assumptions you draw and what your motives are for drawing them.

    April 1, 2010 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
  55. Mark

    Daniel: "Right wing media"? Seriously? If you think the mainstream media (particularly CNN) is right wing, you are WAY left of the American mainstream. I see nothing in this story, by the way, that glamorizes shooting anyone.

    April 1, 2010 at 2:47 pm | Report abuse |
  56. Jeff of Peoria

    So Dan It's OK if the bad guys shoot at us but we can't shoot back. Thank God that MOST Americans don't think this or we would be singing for the Queen of England, or speaking German.

    Try to be big

    April 1, 2010 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
  57. Sun

    My dear Friends!
    It's not an extreme heroic time for the country to send our girls, women abroad to make somebody's life better. Let' save them for us. Keep them here to build a family, to give a birth etc.
    We need them so badly here!

    April 1, 2010 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
  58. aeh4543

    Semper Fi! Stopping the warfare starts with understanding the local customs, like them or not. I hope that many of these Afghan women do not end up raising warriors because of these efforts ...

    April 1, 2010 at 2:41 pm | Report abuse |
  59. Nate

    I've reread this article a few times to locate any place it speaks about the "mob mentality" one poster so hastily wrote.

    This is an effort to reach the entire population on an intellectual and cultural level. These marines are being trained in local history/customs/culture. These women aren't "developing a taste for killing', they are being taught to defend themselves when acted UPON. This is an effort in the right direction and one step closer to us leaving that AOR.

    You certainly have the right to whine away...thats what these marines and all of your armed service members put on the uniform to protect. The local women FET are trying to reach dont have that right...be glad you're here and someone is willing to lay down their life for something most of you take for granted.

    April 1, 2010 at 2:41 pm | Report abuse |
  60. MD

    Reread the story Daniel. THis is not more shoot em up. It is a program trying to ease tensions, open communications and save lives on both sides. The female Marines must be prepared for armed attack to save their own lives and the lives of those around them. They are not looking for a fight, they are tying to prevent a fight.

    Lennybaby, this is the easiest, safest, honorable way out of the war. Find peace with the folks who live there, develop trust and and there is no reason for us to stay.

    This program is not about armed action or shooting anyone. These women are very brave and caring or they would not volunteer for this mission. They deserve our respect and support.

    I hate to see them recalled as it is a waste of training and removes a level of trust with the local community. They should rethink this.

    God bless the Marines and may they stay safe in an uncertain world.

    April 1, 2010 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
  61. MC

    To previous commenter: where does this article say anything about women "developing a taste for killing"?? The entire point of this program is increased ability to TALK to and engage 1/2 of a very traditional, closed society so that coalition troops can AVOID killing people and better understand their needs. This is as far from a traditional shoot-em-up/ask-questions-later approach as has ever been seen in U.S. military history, much less the 8 years we've been in Afghanistan.

    In addition to showing that women are perfectly capable of serving outside the wire (de facto ignoring stated policy, but has been the case since 2003), it shows an increased understanding and appreciation of the local culture with an eye toward avoiding and de-escalating conflict.

    ...This in a culture that, BTW, includes many people who see nothing wrong with treating women as property or purposely blowing up marketplaces/schools/clinics to instill fear (often using disabled children & elderly who don't understand what they're doing). That's far different from collateral damage. Who are the "despicable" people causing pain & suffering? War sucks everywhere – this program is an attempt to do a better job at it.

    April 1, 2010 at 2:38 pm | Report abuse |
  62. Muhammad Ali McFinney

    As a Irish Muslim, me heart is happy. Daniel and Lennybaby are completely out of touch. Hope they stop their hatred.

    April 1, 2010 at 2:38 pm | Report abuse |
  63. Bob

    Lenneybaby is the right name !!!! Correct me if I am wrong but most assassinations in this country were carried out by left wing radicals excluding a couple of deranged and as for mob mentality just harken back to the Chicago mob at a past Democratic convention. Oh lets not forget the Syemboinese liberation army, the eco terrorists, weather underground and their ilk. Now come up with a right wing riot?

    April 1, 2010 at 2:38 pm | Report abuse |
  64. Rigo

    I can't believe these liberal idiots who still bad-mouth our military. Just how the hell do you think this country would've fared without us? You'd be speaking another language right now and you sure as hell wouldn't have the freedom to express your opinions! We learn to kill when we MUST so YOU can enjoy your freedom, so have some respect for my brothers and sisters in uniform or get the HELL OUT OF MY COUNTRY!

    April 1, 2010 at 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
  65. TNGO

    I disagree. It brings up the issue of women in combat roles and why we still prohibit women in these kinds of positions. There would not have been such a lag if there was more female leadership and more females involved in combat roles.

    The first western periodical to discuss the Taliban was Marie Claire, a women's magazine. Their activities were seen as a woman only issue. When Southern Yemen lost it's remitances from the former Soviet Union at the end of the Cold War, there was a rise of religious fundamentalism and a decline of women in civil service. But, I doubt western men would have taken note. These are all signatures of a rise of religious fundamentalism that typically challenges traditional secular governments. But, no one cared until USS Cole and 9-11.

    Having a greater gender balance in leadership and combat positions in the military will allow for greater visability into the very issues that may save a soldier's life or help a soldier successfully complete a mission. It's not just about women, it's about a society as a whole and we need to enfranchise women into the military leadership if we are going to truly be successful. That means more minds to the mission.

    April 1, 2010 at 2:33 pm | Report abuse |
  66. David in Seattle

    I read some of the comments on these excellent stories the CNN reporters and writers have done and I fear for our survival as a nation.

    " Some more of this shoot'em up mentality"
    " the right-wing news media"
    " sad to see women develop a taste for killing"
    In military terms: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot??

    What planet do these people live on? Would they have us hide under our beds and pray that extremists will now play nice? The sacrifices these incredibly brave female Marines and their fellow American military service members are making is just about the only thing standing between these pathetically naive, hysterically pacifist morons and their eventual annihilation by militant Islamic extremists.

    April 1, 2010 at 2:33 pm | Report abuse |
  67. Rob

    You people who are clamoring to find a way "out of this despicable war" should remember why it started in the first place. It is a response to the attacks on our country on September 11, 2001. We got sidetracked in a wasteful war in Iraq but now we are back in this one and we need to finish it.

    April 1, 2010 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
  68. Carter Rierson

    Outstanding! What a great idea!

    April 1, 2010 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
  69. USMC Veteran

    If a more permanent FET program is staffed full time it pushes at that line of no women in direct ground combat. This female USMC Veteran has no doubt that her "little sisters" can make a very real difference in Afghanistan and is very proud of them.

    Semper Fi

    April 1, 2010 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
  70. Amir Goy

    Make the enemy care about you. It will keep you alive. When I see a line of troops deploying on foot in their desert battle dress, weapons held at the same ready position, helmets on tight with that little black night-vision scope attached to the front, it just makes me cheer!!!

    Posted by: Carole Clarke

    April Fools!

    April 1, 2010 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
  71. Rick

    Smart military tactic. Whoever came up with this is finally focusing on the long term objectives. It takes a long time to change mindsets and habits. By working with the women in the households, who in turn influence the youngsters in the household, these Marines have the potential to slowly turn the mindsets of a generation of Afghans just like a large ship at sea slowly changes direction. The cure in Afghanistan is long term, not short term. Kudos to the Marines. Now, get the other services on board as well.

    April 1, 2010 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
  72. Another Woman

    How can we help the FETs from stateside?

    April 1, 2010 at 2:14 pm | Report abuse |
  73. Sarah

    I'm so proud of the American women who do this special assignment. I only hope that the military appreciates them and provides them with the resources and support they need to do their jobs. If we are ever going to change this region we have to build relationships there, and that means with the women of the population as well as the men. I don't think this is about woman "developing a taste for killing," though I'm sure they'll do what they have to to stay alive. It's about fostering a lasting peace in a war-torn region.

    April 1, 2010 at 2:13 pm | Report abuse |
  74. Ken in NC

    Many will never see women in the military as equals but they are. This progran is one example of a female Marine doing what her male conterpart cannot do. One thing most soldiers may already know in a hot zone or fire fight is that the last thing the enemy wants to do is have a mad woman shooting at him. Women tend not to stop until they hit what they want. In the case of a trained female Marine it wouldn't take many rounds to punish the enemy.

    I'm proud of all of our troops and thank you for all you do and give so that we may all sleep a little better at night.

    April 1, 2010 at 2:11 pm | Report abuse |
  75. John F.

    Sounds like an AWESOME idea. That culture is so different from ours, and this seems like a way to bridge some of the differences and improve cross-cultural dialogue.

    April 1, 2010 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse |
  76. A.R.

    Way to go Ladies!!!! The Afghan women are very much a part of the solution in Afghanistan and they deserve to be a part of the change!!! Thank you for what you do!

    April 1, 2010 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse |
  77. Scott

    We call them WM's for Woman Marine. To the nay sayers they are there to protect the population. Combat capable? Go find one and give her some lip, she will put it into your pocket for you once she rips it off. To those who understand.
    Scarlet and Gold

    April 1, 2010 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse |
  78. Abdal-Latif

    I am strongly against the Afghanistan war and I am also against having women in combat roles in the US military. But, this FET program does seem positive–perhaps a rare bright spot in a dismal situation. Nonetheless, I am concerned about these women wading neck-deep into a war zone...they are doing important work, but it should make any truly civilized society uncomfortable.

    April 1, 2010 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse |
  79. An Indepedent

    God loves Marines

    Semper Fi.

    April 1, 2010 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse |
  80. FInally

    HHHORAH!! American ladies can kick butt!!! Proud to be American and female.The best place to live and be a woman. Than you for the story CNN! Do more like this!!!!

    April 1, 2010 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse |
  81. Roddster

    This is what can help "turn the tide". Our females getting the Afghan females involved and working with each other may be the "key" to infiltrating and identifying Al-Queda members...

    April 1, 2010 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
  82. Frank (AF Veteran)

    Improvise, adapt, and overcome! Failure is not an option. Semper fi

    April 1, 2010 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
  83. jen

    What a great idea- and a refreshing solution to a very serious problem that we must address as we try to build trust with this culture. These women- as with all of our military- deserve all the praise we can give them. They do a very difficult job that so many of us would never be willing to do, and they do it with pride and excellence. God bless our military men AND women!

    April 1, 2010 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
  84. Katherine Riebe

    What a great way to get to know the Afghans people and culture via the FET program. This is what American tax dollars for defense and military spending ought to be working for. I commend those women in the Marines doing this job! Excellent!

    April 1, 2010 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse |
  85. Jerry

    Oooorah!!! Marine Corps!

    April 1, 2010 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse |
  86. Tommy

    I served for 26 years in the USAF, lived overseas for 18 of those 26 years (served in Vietnam, Gulf War1 and Bosnia) and I agree with the poster named “Carole Clarke”.
    Learning the language of the nation you are assigned too is a sign of respect and personal growth, it does allow you a greater understanding of the nation, its people and culture. It also opens many doors that might not be opened to a foreign visitor such as I was (well stated Carole).

    I agree that women can relate to women in other nations on many levels and in various situations (such as combat scenarios itself). I never knew anyone that enjoyed taking a life, if I had been around them, they at least at the sense to keep their feeling internal, most folks I knew that had taken a life in combat was merely glad to have lived themselves, it gave them no real pleasure (taking another’s life).

    However, often when you are young and scared or a friend is killed, the need to get even might take over, that is a weakness we could share at some point (I know I have) but I don’t think later, any of us enjoyed the feeling, I know I did not but if I had to, I would do it again. I hope these women never have to take a life, and as many discovered, at the moment (as hard as it might be) you can take action and take a life if needed, living with it is much tougher but I highly commend these and all women in uniform for their patriotism, dedication and sacrifice, be safe men and women, I honor your courage and service.

    Fighting in the Middle East is very hard on so many levels, culture, religion and trust can be a hard nut to crack (even though you are trying to help), mistrust is still alive and fear rules in the end so be safe – Salute

    April 1, 2010 at 1:57 pm | Report abuse |
  87. TickedOffActiveDuty

    Do any or you actually "read" the article or "research" the information? Or do you just start condeming things related to the war as soon as you see them? These women are put there to T.A.L.K. Yes, they go through more training because they will be on the front lines however, their main mission is to TALK to the Afghan women and build relations. Really people.... OPEN YOUR MINDS.

    April 1, 2010 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
  88. Faisal

    Kill the poor. Kill the needy. and then laugh it off for the CNN crew so they can keep the bored blind lazy americans happy and stay #1 in news.. NO SHAME

    April 1, 2010 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
  89. Faisal

    So these people are going off to afghanistan to kill my cousins, so america can relax, put the world in debt, vote a liar into the white house, and all that so they can sit down and watch porn everyday? u scum bags will suffer for this

    April 1, 2010 at 1:53 pm | Report abuse |
  90. Pam

    Ooorah Ladies! Glad to hear about more positive means of communication with the Afghan people. Maybe if we can keep the trust and communication open we can finally get the bad guys and send those ladies as well as the rest of the military home to their families.

    April 1, 2010 at 1:51 pm | Report abuse |
  91. MommaM

    "I find it quite sad to see women develope a taste for killing as I think it's bad enough when men do it" – YOU'VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME – thank goodness these brave women have taken on the task of helping defend our country in whatever role they are assigned – as the mother of a male Marine who is currently deployed I can tell you he did not join the Marines to "kill" people – he joined them to help defend our country against those who would attack us. I am proud of all the men and women who serve this great nation of ours.

    April 1, 2010 at 1:51 pm | Report abuse |
  92. JGenus

    Ooh Rah Ladies. Semper Fi, from Sgt Genus

    April 1, 2010 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
  93. bwill6

    Oorah, Semper Fi to all Marines male and female!

    April 1, 2010 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
  94. Onesmallvoice

    All this warmongering makes me sick.It's bad enough to kill people without glorifying it.There is no glory in killing or the taking of human life.There is far more glory in saving lives and one does that by stopping all these senseless wars.Why can't we just pull out of there and let the people get on with their lives? I guess the right-wing thugs in Washington won't stand far it.

    April 1, 2010 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
  95. Carole Clarke

    I'm an Army Brat but have paid close attention to where and how we send our troops. The men who order those FET troops back to home units aren't anti-female, they are just obeying orders/directives from further up the chain of command. Back there they have no contact with the rurals and are more concerned with military logistics, tactics and the needs of the people whose country they are working in come last. The Secretary of Defense himself would have to step in and discuss this with the Pentagon. You have to go that high up to get the female Marines left to do their work on the ground. I hope they are learning the language as well as history and customs. My father always insisted we learn the language of the country in which we were stationed. It allows you to move easily among the native population. In some ways, it's a wall of protection too. Make the enemy care about you. It will keep you alive. When I see a line of troops deploying on foot in their desert battle dress, weapons held at the same ready position, helmets on tight with that little black night-vision scope attached to the front, it just makes me cheer!!!

    April 1, 2010 at 11:55 am | Report abuse |
  96. Lennybaby

    I find it quite sad to see women develope a taste for killing as I think it's bad enough when men do it.Even when I watch an old Western movie,I get irked when I see a young man want to become a gunslinger and kill other men.This country really needs to overcome it's right-wing mob mentality and that's that!

    April 1, 2010 at 11:39 am | Report abuse |
  97. Minhaj

    Male or Female doesn't matter. What matter's is that what you're doing today will save a life, build trust and by some miracle resolve this hatred. Semper Fi!

    April 1, 2010 at 10:38 am | Report abuse |
  98. Ben

    Great story! Thanks for covering ... so many don't know the lengths that these female Marines go to in order to protect the local population from suicide bombers, vehicle-borne IEDs, etc.

    April 1, 2010 at 9:38 am | Report abuse |
  99. Daniel

    Some more of this shoot'em up mentality.I can't believe so many people consider killing people a "good" thing.We need to try to find a way out of this dispicable war as the right-wing news media rarely reports on the human misery and suffering aspect of this war.

    April 1, 2010 at 8:45 am | Report abuse |
  100. Andrew Lubin

    Regardless of being male or female – ALWAYS Marines! Well Done, Ladies!

    April 1, 2010 at 7:31 am | Report abuse |
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