Camp Hanson; North of Marjah, Afghanistan
“The [Afghan] women we talk with are often more honest than the men and the relationships we build here are great sources of intel,” said Lance Corporal Kathryn Mannion. When asked to elaborate, she explained, “For example, the answers the men were giving about why they continued to grow poppy seemed too vague. When we asked the women why there was still poppy growing amongst the wheat, they told us it was because the wheat prices had fallen, and the families needed the extra income.”
The information was quickly passed to the appropriate Civil Affairs detachment in order to boost the jobs program in that area; if growing poppy is an economic issue, as opposed to a Taliban or ideological issue, then it’s an issue that can quickly be resolved.
Mannion is a member of a Female Engagement Team assigned to Regimental Combat Team 7, and reporting to the regimental operations officer, the S-3. The FETs are responsible for cultivating and building relationships with the local women in order to determine the problems in the village that the Marines can help resolve: schools, health, employment, etc.
Mannion’s commanding officer, First Lieutenant Natalie Kronschnabel explained that Helmand province is a patriarchal, conservative Islamic society, “where the men won’t discuss female and family issues with each other, much less with male Marines. But the women will talk with us.”