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Face of Defense: Female Advisor Heads to Afghanistan

By Marine Corps Cpl. Andrew S. Avitt
Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms

MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER, TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif., Nov. 22, 2010 – Afghan soldiers are in for a surprise when they meet their new instructor, Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Tricia McBride, the first female Marine assigned to advise host-nation forces in Afghanistan.

After being the first woman to graduate from the Marines’ advisor training group program, McBride, from Wilmington, Del., will deploy with a team of six to teach and evaluate Afghan military logistician instructors in Kabul, Afghanistan.

“It’s a good feeling,” McBride said. “To be the first at anything is good, but to be the first female -- especially in the Marine Corps -- is just great.”

But it’s only the beginning for McBride and the rest of her team. After the Taliban takeover in 1996, Afghan women were not allowed to attend schools or work outside of their homes, making professional interaction with women an uncomfortable situation for some Afghan men.

“The biggest challenge that I’m facing now is the reaction to me teaching a class,” McBride said, recalling the lessons she received on Afghan culture during her training here. “I have been told they’re not going to take me seriously, and they’ll just get up and walk out of the classroom.”

McBride said she and her teammates gained an understanding of Afghan language and culture during their training.

“Let’s just say I haven’t heard a lot of positive things as far as females being instructors, because the [Afghan] men do look at the women differently there,” she said. “I’m going to show them that I’m just like the rest of the guys. I’m going to show them that, although I am a woman and I might do some things a little different, we’re all brothers and sisters.

We are all here to help each other and to learn from each other,” she continued, “So, hopefully, just because I’m a woman, they won’t take that away from me.”

McBride also received courses on Afghan etiquette and common challenges that advisors face, said Capt. Ben Lawless, a supply officer, instructor and assessor with the advisor training group.

“I think they have done very well,” Lawless said of his students. “They have shown a thorough understanding of how to use an interpreter while executing a class to a host-nation force.”

McBride, he said, is a professional who can surmount any challenge she encounters.

“She’ll be able to handle it,” Lawless said.

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The opinions expressed in the following comments do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of Defense.

11/23/2010 11:27:09 AM
These people haven't gotten past their tribal antics yet. What happened to the, "When in Rome do as the Romans do," premise to build repore. I might be all wrong but this in your face challenge to their way of life and exceptable social norms might lead to a train wreck. What about force Force Protection? Making an already dangerous situation more dangerous is akin to throwing gasoline on a fire. Not to mention that at a minimum, in the eyes of some, it will sow the seeds of blatent disrespect and generate a toxic, resentful learning environment. You might not see the remafications immediatley. The truth will be known after the training is over and the conduct of the trainees in the future plays out. I expect the long term effects of this experiment to be conterproductive and to cause other problems. Bad idea. This is not the time or place to play with a some kind of a social model of this nature. Too many furtures at stake!
- SFC Smith, Kelly, J. SF 18E(ret), St Peter, Minnesota

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