My Last Tour: Afghan Army Women Officers

Two Afghan National Army captains hold up a uniform, something they rarely wear.
Two Afghan National Army captains hold up a uniform, something they rarely wear.
TAMPA (2010-4-13) -

Life in the Afghan National Army is very different for women. Senior Master Sergeant Rex Temple tells of a recent conversation he had with two veteran ANA officers.

Over the past several months, the Tampa airman has developed a friendship of sorts with two female ANA officers. He delivered food, toys, clothing and hygiene products to the support center they run that helps wounded soldiers and Afghan widows.

Both women are ANA captains with medical degrees. But the female officers wear civilian clothes.

“The only time they put on the uniform is when they have delegations or VIPs because the soldiers chide them and joke with them and call them bad names,” Temple said.

Temple was curious. So when they consented to an interview that was his first question.

“My house is too far from here,” said the older female captain through an interpreter. “If I wear a uniform, people will say ... bad words. She is saying because of that I am not wearing that uniform.”

When Temple pressed them, he says the women blamed uneducated soldiers for harassing them.

Initially they told Temple that the officers and the literate soldiers were supportive. But then Temple started asking about promotions.

“They talked about their boss and how he said ‘you look old and you need to be a housewife basically,” Temple said.

One of the women has been in the army for 20 years on and off. Her colleague has 33 years in the service. But, they say promotions are hard to come by even with their experience and education.

“They are saying instead of us, they are promoting the men,” the translator said. “The men, they are saying, are uneducated. They are not talented people but they are saying ‘no, we are.’”

Temple said both women complained about low pay too. The older captain is the sole support for her four children and can only afford to buy meat once a week. The younger officer says her husband, also an ANA officer, is supportive of her military career.

“He is happy, he is proud of his wife,” said the interpreter.
Temple was surprised to find out that the younger captain aspired to be in the army even as a teenager. And her sister who is in school right now also plans to join.

When asked if they thought the coalition could succeed. The women officers really didn’t answer the question. Instead, they listed the improvements they’ve seen.

“The coalition force did a lot of things for us in Afghanistan. We are happy for them,” said the interpreter. “For example, they mention before the coalition force in Afghanistan, we couldn’t go outside. Schools was banned for the women, university also.”

The women ANA captains are optimistic telling Temple that with the combined force of the ANA, the Afghan National Police and coalition troops, they are more powerful than the enemy.

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