Iowa National Guard soldiers preparing for overseas deployment this summer are training on the use of weapons and survival skills, but they’re also learning about the culture in Afghanistan. Female Iowa soldiers will play an important role.
Captain Jodi Marti, of Knoxville, says teams of three-to-seven women will try to interact with and befriend the Afghan women in an effort to tap an under-utilized resource.
“Even something as simple as showing them proper hygiene,” Marti says, “I know it sounds trivial, but giving the kids toys or paper and pen or crayons. Those little things will go far in what we do over there as a battalion.”
Marti says helping families and gaining their trust may keep children from joining the Taliban or other insurgent groups. She says cultural differences don’t allow male soldiers to have extended conversations with the Afghan women. Marti says this type of mission, interacting with the Afghan women, has been used very little in the nine-year war.
She says, “We’re missing out on half the population when we’re not talking to the females, and they are a wealth of knowledge for us, not only just information, they know what’s going on in the community, activity we should know about.”
While male soldiers can’t have much interaction with the Afghan women, she says female soldiers can do so — if they cover their hair and remove their sunglasses.