Our Best: Navy Lioness
By Yeoman 2nd Class Judith Owen, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 28 Public Affairs
Camp Al Asad, Iraq (NNS) — Three women from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 28 took the Navy in a new direction in the war on terrorism when, on May 3, they returned to Camp Al Asad, Iraq, as the first Seabees trained in a Marine Corps program called Lioness.
The Lioness program was born when Marine commanders needed a culturally acceptable way to conduct effective searches of Iraqi women at control points along the Iraqi border and other locations. Because men in Muslim countries are not allowed to touch women they are not related to, it was difficult to stop insurgents from using women to smuggle in arms or money. Lioness trains U.S. service women to conduct searches of females, accomplishing the misison while being sensitive to Muslim women.
â€œThis is definitely a hands-on environment, and itâ€™s an extremely important mission,â€ said Marine Pfc. Brittany Cummins of the Marine Wing Headquarters Squadron (MWHS). â€œWe canâ€™t win the hearts and minds if we donâ€™t show respect for the culture.â€
Personnel Specialist 3rd Class Sandra Ersoff, a Lioness volunteer who served in the Haditha area of Iraq, said her experience with the Muslim women usually was very positive.
â€œI found the Iraqi women to be friendly and understanding of the circumstances,â€ said Ersoff. â€œAlthough some women were reserved, I exchanged greetings and smiles with the majority. Like mothers around the world, Iraqi women were receptive to my interaction with their children. I truly believe my presence had a positive effect on the female community of Haditha.â€
Each Lioness Task Force consists of a 30- to 45-day rotation that gives female volunteers of different military branches and various occupations the opportunity to train and work with the Marine infantry force.
The training curriculum consists of a Marine Corps martial arts program refresher course, improvised explosive devices identification, rules of engagement, cultural familiarization, search techniques and other military instruction. In addition, the participants are familiarized with and afforded the opportunity to train in the use of various weapons.
â€œThese women have volunteered to execute this difficult mission because they recognize the importance of what the Lioness program is trying to achieve,â€ said Capt. Kate Gregory, commodore for the 30th Naval Construction Regiment who is responsible for all Seabee personnel in the Al Anbar Province of Iraq.
â€œAll of the women from each branch of service who volunteered for this program should feel proud that their accomplishments are contributing to our overall success in this fight,â€ she said.
The Seabees described their participation in the program as a very rewarding experience. They were afforded the opportunity to work hand in hand with the Iraqi police on a daily basis and found them to be a friendly and accommodating group.
In their experience, the vast majority of Iraqi women coming through the checkpoints were cooperative and accepting of the necessity of the searches. In between conducting searches, the Lioness volunteers took the opportunity to hand out candy and small toys to the local Iraqi children.
“These women of NMCB 28 have stepped up to offer their skills and abilities to a critical part of the security mission,â€ said Cmdr. Craig Scharton, commanding officer of NMCB 28. â€œTheir senior levels of experience and maturity were critical factors to ensuring success in a job that requires situational awareness, cultural sensitivity and keen judgment.”
The Lioness program is facilitated by Marine Regimental Combat Team 2 which is deployed with the II Marine Expeditionary Force in support of Operation Iraq Freedom.
NMCB 28 is part of nearly 1,100 Sailors and Marines supporting critical construction efforts in the Al Anbar province of Iraq.
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This entry was posted on Friday, May 18th, 2007 at 2:00 pm and is filed under War on Terror, Iraq, Military, Military, Our Best: Military Women, War on Terror. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.