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The end of female engagement teams

Dec. 29, 2012 - 10:30AM   |   Last Updated: Dec. 29, 2012 - 10:30AM  |  
Lance Cpl. Victoria Rogers, a member of a female engagement team attached to 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines, jumps over a canal on her way to a local school in Afghanistan. The Corps has transferred the FET mission to Afghan security forces.
Lance Cpl. Victoria Rogers, a member of a female engagement team attached to 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines, jumps over a canal on her way to a local school in Afghanistan. The Corps has transferred the FET mission to Afghan security forces. (Cpl. Colby Brown / Marine Corps)
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The Marine Corps has ended its use of female engagement teams in Afghanistan, saying their work is now performed by Afghan National Security Forces.

The shift happened in August, as thousands of U.S. forces were withdrawn from theater amid a drawdown in forces, said Lt. Col. Stewart Upton, a spokesman for Marine forces in Afghanistan. There were about 17,000 Marines in Afghanistan early this year, but there are currently fewer than 7,000, Marine officials said.

What you need to know:

1. A brief, but important, mission. FETs were first established in Afghanistan in 2009, according to briefing slides posted on NATO's website. In 2011, there were 16 two-woman FETs in Helmand province, which Marine forces have patrolled since 2008. Additional U.S. FETs were distributed across other provinces.

2. The FET's role. FETs often were tasked with distributing information to Afghan families and collecting information from them, assisting with civil affairs and supporting clearing operations, in part by searching women for weapons. FETs have assisted not only conventional Marine units, but special operations units as well.

3. Afghan males now do the job. The move was somewhat expected. As Afghan forces take the lead providing security in their own country, they are handling many of the missions in which FET Marines had a role. FET Marines in Helmand told Marine Corps Times in April that they expected their deployments would be cut short as part of the drawdown there. In October, a male Afghan lieutenant spoke with women and children in a compound in the Trek Nawa section of Helmand while Marine scout snipers set their weapons for a mission.

4. Evolved from ‘Lioness' program. FETs have drawn comparison to female Marine units that deployed to Iraq under a program known as Lioness. However, where Lioness Marines focused on searching Iraqi women, FET roles were frequently broader.

5. Preserving lessons learned. The Marine Corps Center for Lessons Learned will release a report in the future outlining the FET role in Afghanistan, said Col. Sean Gibson, a spokesman for Marine Corps Combat Development Command in Quantico, Va. It's not immediately clear when that report will be released.

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