1st Lt. Kathryne B. Schilling, a 27-year-old native of Bethesda, Md., and training officer, Combat Logistics Battalion 1, 1st Marine Logistics Group, coaches a woman as she prepares to shoot a pistol during her training to become a Sister of Ferris, June 4. The Sisters of Ferris, trained by CLB-1, 1st MLG, with support from Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, will inspect women for weapons, suicide vests, large amounts of cash and contraband at entry control points.
Most Iraqi women I have met arenâ€™t the reserved, repressed and somewhat bitter women I thought I would meet.
Yes, itâ€™s a harsh way to describe anyone. But before deploying here that was my impression; one conjured by what I saw on news reports.
Then I found myself here.
I recently met five Iraqi women who attended a personnel searchers course, instructed by Marines, which prepared them to inspect local females for contraband, weapons, suicide vests and large amounts of cash.
They arenâ€™t the first in the region to train in such a program, but five members of a very small group. Wearing dresses, sandals and burkas instead of military fatigues, they are going to be working alongside the Iraqi policemen, something unheard of in al-Anbar province until a few months ago. One of the â€œsistersâ€ volunteered for the job because she needed the money and this was a way to help the city.
According to Time magazine Iraq is faced with â€œmore than 60% unemployment and rampant poverty,â€ and many lack the resources to earn an education to attain a job yet it is impressive to see proactive women working to better their community.
A â€œsisterâ€ who spoke a bit of English explained that she used to be scared of Marines before meeting them for the training.
I thought of how I used to be scared of searching Iraqi women.
After the training week, the â€œsistersâ€ and Marines bonded, shared food, culture, laughs and exchanged gifts with each other.
The Iraqi women brought their children to the last dayâ€™s graduation. The Marines laid down their rifles and entertained the children as their mothers reviewed all they had learned in the week of training.
Things as simple as sharing a meal, a hug and learning proper greetings in each othersâ€™ languages were enough to make a good impression on both sides of the house.
A Marine who trained the females mentioned that one â€œsisterâ€ compared herself to a James Bond girl and how she was training like a Bond girl; learning about weapons and providing security for a city, while making money. Itâ€™s not a situation as glamorous as in the movies but the reference gave both women common ground to joke about.
The benefits of their efforts at the entry control point are yet to be seen but the interaction between this group of Marines and women have put both in awe of each other. The proactive few made lasting impressions.
I have faith that as locals, the women will spot anyone suspicious and remain safe while making everyone who goes through the ECP feel more secure when entering their city.
By Lance Cpl. Cindy G. Alejandrez
1st Marine Logistics Group
Cpl. Rebekah D. Hall, a 26-year-old from San Diego, with Combat Logistics Battalion 1, 1st Marine Logistics Group, entertains a young girl, as the child’s mother reviews her searching procedure, as part Sisters of Ferris training, June 5.