KANDAHAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan — Rarely are women seen in the front lines of war. They are more often in the roles not considered to be combat arms. However, 1st Lt. Brittany Hine of the 584th Mobility Augmentation Company, part of Fort Hood’s 20th Engineer Battalion, 36th Engineer Brigade, is making her mark by being only one of two female combat engineer platoon leaders in Afghanistan.
Pushing through the odds to embark on a frontier journey, Hine was ready to take on the challenge.
“I wanted to go on the combat side and engineer was one of the forefronts of letting females do that,” said Hine. “So, I knew I wanted combat and I knew engineer would be my best bet. I took over in August and I jumped in almost immediately. A lot of my transition was learning and absorbing everything I could.”
In a predominately male unit, being a female leader can be an uneasy transition.
“You would think there would be all these problems and differences but there are literally none,” Hine said. “I think the thing that helped me is that I can hang and even beat some of the guys at (physical training), so PT was my bonding point. I love my guys.”
Female platoon leaders have to work hard and train harder to not only be a part of the team, but to standout. However, there are still several differences between male and female that they have to overcome in order to be an effective leader.
“As a female you have to hold yourself to a much higher standard. So that’s something I always try to stress to my female friends,” Hine said. “Always keep yourself at that next level and don’t slip, because you are like on thin ice when it comes to it because we’re the testers on whether this can work or not.”
Hine said she believes this gives her a unique view on leading her platoon.
“I feel like I have the best of both worlds, I’m around guys so much I can see their perspective of things but can also insert my perspectives.”
Hine, has not only made an impression on her platoon but on her leadership as well. Capt. Joseph Frederick, commander of the 584th Mobility Augmentation Company, is pleased with the progress she has made throughout the deployment.
“First Lt. Hine is a charismatic leader who embraced the challenge of leading soldiers in combat and excelled while creating a cohesive team that soldiers desire to be a part of,” said Frederick. “She is an outstanding example of what we expect in our junior officers and possesses a very bright future.”
When it comes to going out daily on dangerous route clearance missions, Hine expressed other fears.
“Most people are nervous about going out, but I was more nervous about the paperwork. I was so stoked to go out because I really trust my guys. It’s a really good feeling to go out there. I trust them completely.”
There are still certain issues with females being a part of a predominantly male unit, such as separate living quarters, but these are things that cannot easily be changed. Even though they work and train together, there are still boundaries that have to be placed.
“I was really worried they wouldn’t be receptive to me and I’d have problems because the culture said they wouldn’t interact with me, but it’s been the complete opposite,” said Hine. “They’ve been incredibly receptive and almost intrigued. At times it’s even helped because the leaders have come out and engaged me more than if I was a male. It’s been really great.”
One of the greatest benefits of being a leader is seeing the impact being made throughout the work being done. Hine has the opportunity to see her impact daily as she interacts with the local nationals.
“I love seeing the little girls light up when they realize I’m a female, they’re ecstatic!” Hine exclaimed. “It’s rewarding when you see the positive effects of being a female out here and show them there are other things out there, there are other possibilities.”