Archive for September 21, 2010
The Afghan National Army’s officer candidate school is scheduled to graduate its first class of female second lieutenants this week.
The 29 women who completed the 20-week training course outside Kabul, the Afghan capital city, had to be both literate and high school graduates to qualify for the class. Only about 15 percent of the Afghan National Army (ANA) is literate.
The female class began instruction May 2 and is scheduled to graduate Sept. 23 and be commissioned second lieutenants. Following the first eight weeks of basic training, the candidates transitioned to specialty training in Logistics and Finance. “These ladies are up to the task,” says U.S. Army Capt. Janis Lullen.
Although the women were recruited from all over Afghanistan and represented most of its major ethnic and tribal groups, there was no friction – at least no more than one would find in a typical U.S. military installation where young people from different regions are thrown together in an open-bay barracks, says Army 1st Sgt. Kristin Norton
She and Lullen, both from the 95th Training Division, told a bloggers roundtable that the real challenge was simply turning civilians into military personnel and one of the biggest tasks was getting them physically fit. “Their bodies weren’t used the physical activity that we pushed them through,” Norton says.
The women also received small arms training: hands-on instruction with 9mm handgun and classroom-training on long guns. The 95th Division is an Army Reserves unit headquartered in Oklahoma. It provides basic Combat Initial Entry Training at one or more of the Army’s five Basic Combat training centers.
In addition to getting the women physically “trained up” instructors — both U.S. and Afghan — had to teach them about military responsibilities like time management and taking ownership of leadership assignments, said Lullen.
The U.S. Army women told bloggers they thought many in the first class could handle leading troops – male as well as female – but such assignments will be up to the Afghan military.
“This is making history with another country – bringing women into the military,” said Lullen, adding that the officer candidates “have come a long, long way … they took a lot on in 20 weeks and they have transformed themselves from just regular civilians to independent-thinking officers of the ANA.”