What are FETs? you might ask. They are the United States Marine Corps Female Engagement Teams. Since 9/11, these FETs have become an important asset to the Marine Corps units on the front lines. They are a new element in the Marine Corps’ ability to gather intelligence out in the field, directly from the locals themselves.
Times have changed. Every war is different, and the nature of the foe and the realities of cultural differences require adaptability and flexibility in order to succeed in the war-fighting effort. One of the most important elements of war-fighting capability is establishing relationships with local populations in order to gather necessary and useful local intelligence.
For the Marine grunts on the ground, the most important intelligence is that which is most local. They need to know who is who, what activities are going on in their area of responsibility, or anything new that has come into the area. For this, they need the help of the local people, whenever and wherever possible.
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are not just political conflicts; they are also conflicts of culture. Religion has shaped the lives of the peoples of Iraq and Afghanistan for 1,500 years. These cultural differences make for often very difficult and delicate relationship-building efforts in order to be able to get the intelligence that is needed. That’s where the particular skills of these female Marine FET units come to the forefront.
As you will hear in this video, these female Marines are Marines first. They are trained and equipped to fight like any of their male partners when push comes to shove. But their real mission is to build rapport with the local villagers in Afghanistan.
These societies are extremely conservative, especially concerning the roles of women. It is not allowed for men, especially men from outside of family relationships, etc., to speak to women without a man present, for example. Women, though, can be exceptionally knowledgeable about local information and can be very important assets in gathering information. Having women like these FETs talk to them opens up more doors to communication.
The building of respectful relationships is the most important element in this effort. That’s where these FETs become very important to the Marine units in the field. These female Marines bring things to the effort that males cannot. The FETs are trained in the local language and in the skills necessary for intelligence gathering, but, as women, they are more readily accepted by the locals, both male and female. The local people see in these FETs respect for their culture.
FETs are able to develop respectful relationships with the women and children of the villages because they are women. They have proven to be very valuable. They have made inroads in some local communities precisely because they are perceived as respecting the local culture, honoring the local ways toward women.
You will meet some of these female Marines in this video. You will also hear how the male Marine commanders and platoon leaders have come to respect and to count on them. In the beginning, like with any change, there was real skepticism about them, but the Marine Corps units have come to see that these female Marines are true assets in their efforts to not only gather intelligence but to win the minds and hearts of the local communities.
These female Marines in the FETs are tough, intelligent, and very good at what they do. They bring a whole new dimension to the field that is proving to be a very effective way to communicate with the local populations and to establish useful and valuable rapport.
Watch and learn about the Female Engagement Teams. Semper Fi, Marines! Oorah!