BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan — Five U.S. Army soldiers are the first to take part in a new counter-IED training course designed by Combined Joint Task Force Paladin specifically for female engagement team members.

The five, all military intelligence analysts with 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, at Bagram, participated in the three-day course Sept. 16-18.

The course included training in unexploded ordnance awareness, biometrics, forensics, evidence collection, tactical questioning, vehicle and personnel searches, as well as instruction on how homemade explosives are made and how to recognize possible explosives manufacturing sites.

The ladies deployed with the “Black Jack” Brigade about two months ago and volunteered for duty with the female engagement team after arriving in country. Duty with the team will take them “outside the wire” on a regular basis, something that provided the impetus for the new training course, said task force trainer Jean Paul Stassi.

“Originally they just asked for training on basic visual recognition, or what they need to look for while they’re out there,” Stassi said of the initial request for counter-improvised explosive device training from the soldiers’ unit.

Interact with Afghan women

After talking with the Paladin training section, the unit decided more training would be beneficial to the team members, especially since they’ll be expected to interact with Afghan women as part of their duties and could be called on to search them and collect evidence that might be found.

“They need to understand the evidence collection procedures so they can bring back that evidence for use in prosecutions in Afghan courts,” Stassi said. “The tour of the labs (where evidence such as fingerprints and DNA are analyzed) showed them the end results of that evidence collection.”

All five soldiers volunteered for the team after hearing from another unit that having females soldiers attached to units engaging the local populace would be helpful.

Afghan culture dictates men who are not family members should not talk to or interact with women, making the female teams a valuable asset in gathering information during those engagements.

“We’ll be going out and doing a job that is necessary,” Sgt. Katherine Restko said.

“It’s a job that would go undone otherwise,” Sgt. Leah Mallett said.

While they may need to attend more training as part of the team process, the soldiers said they felt the Paladin training would be beneficial to them.

“This is very helpful, especially the vehicle and personnel search training,” Spc. Jenna Bruxvoort said. “It’s been pretty interesting.”

Paladin also offers training at Bagram and other Afghanistan locations using embedded and traveling training teams.

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