Face of Defense: Airman Advances Afghan Women’s Cause
By Air Force Staff Sgt. Steve Grever
Air Force Personnel Center
RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas, Apr. 28, 2010 Recent efforts by airmen and their coalition partners have led to opportunities for women in Afghanistan to serve as commissioned officers in the Afghan army.
Air Force Lt. Col. Lisa Pike, right, contributed to standing up the first army officer candidate course for Afghan women during her recent deployment to Afghanistan. Courtesy photo
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Air Force Lt. Col. Lisa Pike, assigned to the Air Force’s manpower, services and personnel directorate, contributed to standing up the first course for female Afghan officer candidates during her recent deployment to Afghanistan.
Pike served as the chief of staff for the Combined Training Advisory Group Army, a subordinate command of NATO Training Mission Afghanistan and the U.S. military’s Combined Security Transition Command Afghanistan. Her mission focused on helping to train, advise, coach and monitor the Afghanistan National Army Training Center in establishing a doctrine and education and training system capable of supporting the Afghan army’s development.
Creating the first women’s officer candidate course included working with potential students to discuss the course and outline the commitments they’d have to make to participate.
"I counseled our Afghan counterparts on the program and met with women currently in the [Afghan army]," Pike said. "I discussed with them the fact that they are the first for all of these initiatives, and their success is very important not only to women in Afghanistan, but to the future of their country and its army."
In addition to opportunities available through the officer candidate course, National Military Academy of Afghanistan officials noted that the academy admits 10 women per year. Women attending the academy make long-term commitments that involve studying at the academy for one year, attending medical school for six years and committing to the army for 20 years.
"I am very proud of all these women for stepping forward and taking a chance on making a difference," Pike said. "I think it is important to have representation of an entire nation when building for the future, and it is essential for all people of a nation to be educated. Education is the key to success."
Pike said she used these opportunities not only to tell Afghan women about the education and training programs available to them, but also to serve as a role model and to provide mentorship.
"I, along with other coalition women, have provided a positive example of what women can contribute, when given the chance, to the leaders of the training center and army," she said.
Pike's dedication and professionalism played a critical role in the Afghan army’s development, said British Brig. Gen. Simon Levey, Combined Training Advisory Group Army’s commanding general.
"I have no doubt that it was due to her endeavors as a female role model that the commander of [the training center] decided to run the first female officer candidate course," Levey said. "She was his inspiration, as she was for the coalition staff."
The creation of regional military training centers has doubled the training center's capacity, Pike said. During the majority of her tour, she added, the focus was on growing the army. That focus recently changed to developing the army.
"With that comes the creation and implementation of branch-specific schools in order to train and educate a more balanced force for the future," she said.
Pike said she learned a lot during her deployment and developed many relationships with her coalition co-workers and Afghan counterparts that were mutually beneficial to the success of their training mission and to the future of the Afghan people.
"The relationships we have built with our Afghan counterparts and the work they and our team have done to increase both the quantity and quality of training for the Afghan National Army has been exceptional," she said. "I think I contributed to the senior [training center] leadership's ability to see that women can be professional and competent officers, and that women can participate in their army and in the development of their country."