One Woman to Another: The Lioness Program
By Petty Officer 2nd Class Jaâ€™lon A. Rhinehart
Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 1 â€“ Public Affairs
Returning Jan. 5 from a month of serving alongside the 3rd Battalion, 23rd Marine Regiment as a part of the Lioness program, three female Seabees attached with Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 1 were able to finally take a moment to reflect upon what they had just accomplished and experienced.
They served in roles unusual to their specific ratings within the Seabee community, but critical to the success of current operations in theater. The Seabees were not only able to aid the interests of our country and allies, but they helped to make a connection between our two cultures while respecting the differences; woman to woman.
â€œIt was awesome,â€ said construction mechanic Petty Officer 3rd Class Cassandra Workman. â€œWhen we would take the women to be inspected, and they were able to see our faces and hear our voices, they just lit up.â€
She laughed, â€œYou could really see the difference.â€
The Lioness program, established by the Marine Corps, was created to provide the U.S. military with a culturally acceptable way to conduct effective personnel searches of Iraqi women at traffic and entry control points throughout the operational theater. Muslim cultures do not allow for a man to touch a woman that is not related to him, which created the possibility for women to be used as traffickers of contraband and increased the possibility of misinterpretation as male service members conducted searches of female Iraqis.
â€œHaving a female there releases the stress of the possibility of misinterpretation for both the Iraqi woman and the U.S. service member,â€ said Workman. â€œThese searches are imperative, and are going to be done regardless. But itâ€™s just better this way; with us here.â€
â€œThis is totally outside of anything that I have ever done, or that a Seabee would normally do,â€ smiled builder Petty Officer 3rd Class Megan Sullivan. â€œIt felt really good to be able to play this specific role. In all that we do and accomplish as Seabees, it was a once in a lifetime experience to be able to contribute in this way.â€
Prior to being deployed to one of the various traffic control points in the area, the Seabees went through a structured training program that covered many topics from basic Marine Corps martial arts, search techniques and cultural familiarization, to the rules of engagements. However, they soon found that some of the most critical training would be learned when they arrived at their post.
â€œThe Iraqi women really responded well when we would talk to them in Arabic,â€ smiled Workman. â€œDuring our off-time, interpreters would teach us Arabic over a game of cards. The Iraqi women would usually stop, look and smile when we spoke to them in their native tongue,â€ said Workman. â€œNot that they didnâ€™t understand, but that they appreciated our efforts to learn the language.â€
Far removed in part from their general responsibilities as Seabees, they still found time to live by the famous motto â€œWe Build, We fight.â€
â€œI built some shelves for the Marines that I was working with,â€ said Sullivan. â€œHey, no matter what, I love being a builder.â€
In the current operational climate, the Seabees occasionally find themselves participating in jobs outside their normal duties to ensure total mission success. From participating on Convoy Security Elements to the Lioness program, Seabees continue to answer the call, and do it well.
â€œThe Marines told us that we were the best group theyâ€™ve have ever had,â€ smiled Sullivan. â€œThough itâ€™s not something that we would generally do, and was scary at times, you had to find your personal determination and go make it happen. Itâ€™s what we joined the military to do.â€
NMCB 1 is part of nearly 1,200 Sailors and Marines supporting critical general engineering and construction efforts in the Al Anbar province of Iraq as part of 30th Naval Construction Regiment (Forward).
Table of contents for Lioness
This entry was posted on Thursday, January 17th, 2008 at 11:00 am and is filed under War on Terror, Iraq, Military, War on Terror, Iraq, Rebuilding, War on Terror. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.