New Female Lieutenants Commissioned into Afghan Army

Women from the first graduating class of the Afghan National Army Female Officer Candidate School stand for the playing of the national anthem during the graduation ceremony, Sept. 23, 2010. Twenty-nine Afghan women completed 20 weeks of training, which included eight weeks of basic training and 12 weeks of advanced training. The advanced training was in logistics and finance.
(U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Laura R. McFarlane/Released)

September 23, 2010

By Staff Sgt. Rachel Martinez, USAF
NTM-A (NATO Training Mission - Afghanistan) Public Affairs Development 

KABUL – “I am ready to serve my country,” shouted 29 female 2nd lieutenants as they joined the ranks of the Afghan National Army during a graduation ceremony Sept. 23 at Kabul Military Training Center.

There are nearly 300 women in the ANA, but these 29 women were the first group to graduate from officer candidate school, a formalized training program.

Over the course of 20 weeks, the group of women learned basic military skills, including leadership qualities, and trained to become finance or logistics officers. They were instructed and mentored along the way by a team of U.S. and Afghan officers and NCOs.

“I am very happy today that we have 29 girls graduating” said Afghan Maj. Fahima, one of the female OCS instructors. “I hope that these girls who have graduated from here do not forget their lessons and show for the people that Afghan girls can serve in military.”

Many of the graduating women said they were excited about the opportunity to join the army, an opportunity that was not available under Taliban rule.

“I always wanted to join the military,” said Afghan 2nd Lt. Habiba. “After the Taliban left I wanted to join. I want to serve more for my people and my country.”

Habiba, 28 and a mother of four children, has the support of her family, something not all the women are lucky enough to have. The family support could be seen in the number of relatives who showed up to watch the women graduate along with their male counterparts.

“My close family is so happy and they support me, but my far family does not support it,” Habiba said. “My husband always supports me. Being away from my children for training was hard, but my husband looked after the kids.

“My children are happy, but one is extra happy,” Habiba continued. “My son says, ‘When I grow up I want to join the army too.’”

Like many of the other women in her graduating class, Habiba will go on to work in the finance field for the Afghan Army where she hopes to serve for a long time. She acknowledges however, that her service may not be easy.

“The situation and condition is not easy, especially for women to wear the military uniform,” she said.

Coalition and Afghan leaders are hoping to change the climate for women in the military. One step is to get more women in the army. While there were only 29 women in this first OCS class, recruiting is currently underway for the next class scheduled to begin in November.

“According to MoD the right of boys and girls are equal in Army,” said Afghan Maj. Gen. Amin Ullah Karim, Commander, Afghan National Army Training Command. “As we know, having females in the army has more positive effects because they also want to serve for their country.”

The 29 newly-commissioned officers have the potential to make a difference and serve as role models for other women to join the army, according to their U.S. advisors.

“I believe it will be a slow start because there are a lot of pros and cons with females in the Afghan Army; they are not quite used to it,” said U.S. Army Sgt. Hailey Hoard, advisor. “With the strong individuals we worked with, I think they will be able to push forward. The candidates are very strong, strong-willed and have great potential.”

When the women first arrived for training, many were shy, timid and could not look people in the eyes. They have since turned in to strong, independent women who can look people in the eyes and say what they want, said advisor U.S. Army Capt. Janis Lullen.

“Overall, this country is making strides to make progress and bring the integration of the ANA full circle,” said Lullen. “We just had a graduation of both the male and female OCS and there was no tension. I felt a real positive vibe in there. I think this country is taking a giant step toward that.”


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