Face of Defense: Soldier Focuses on Helping Afghan Women
By Army Sgt. April York
2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division
ARGHANDAB, Afghanistan, Apr. 2, 2012 Not every job in the Army is glamorous, but every job is necessary.
Army Spc. Desire Chavarria is serving a 12-month deployment to Combat Outpost Jannat, Afghanistan. As a female engagement team member, her mission is to interact with women in the surrounding communities to find out what they need and to help them understand the process of going through their government to have their needs met. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. April York
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Army Spc. Desire Chavarria, a member of the female engagement team assigned to the 4th Infantry Division’s 1st Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, spends her days going out on missions and helping to keep her company’s combat outpost running.
Helping around the combat outpost is a job all soldiers do. Because the combat outpost is small, soldiers are responsible for keeping their living areas clean. Chavarria said she usually helps to wash the dishes, pick up trash, wash the showers and fill up the water points.
Chavarria is one of three women who live on the Combat Outpost Jannat, which is home to a company-size element. Living on a small combat outpost has its advantages and disadvantages, she said. The small size creates a strong sense of team and camaraderie, she explained, but having enough people to keep everything up and running can be a challenge.
Chavarria said she and the other women on the combat outpost are willing to do their share of the hard work. “We told [the guys in the company] when we got here not to treat us any differently,” she said. “We may be women, but we are soldiers, and that’s the bottom line.”
During her deployment, Chavarria has been going out on patrols to interact with women in the surrounding communities.
“Our goal as members of [female engagement team] is to go to different villages and see what the women need, and encourage them to bring these issues up to their government so they can get the help that they need,” Chavarria said.
The best, and at times, the toughest part, she said, is having a chance to see the Afghan culture.
“Being able to see a small part of what is going on here is great -- observing their culture and seeing how they live,” she said. “It’s amazing to see all of this, and at the same time it’s sad to see the poverty of the women and children. A lot of the time, the women ask us for medical supplies for headaches and general pain relief, which we cannot legally provide them.”
The missions can be disappointing from time to time, Chavarria added, but that doesn’t stop her from wanting to help out.
“I know it’s hard and discouraging when we want to help them and we can’t give them what they need,” she said, “but just being able to get out there and give them a little bit of knowledge on how they can try and get the help they need makes it worth it for me.”
Maintaining a positive attitude can be tough, Chavarria acknowledged. She makes it through by thinking of her son, she said.
“Every day is one day closer to going home to my son,” she said. “He is the light of my life. He is my life.”