By Army Capt. Mike Starz
Special to American Forces Press Service
April 18, 2008 - Soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division are working with Iraqi Army troops to help create a Daughters of Iraq program to complement the work done by the Sons of Iraq. The Iraqi women in the program would be able to search other females at security checkpoints, expanding the capabilities of the Sons of Iraq currently manning the checkpoints.
The Sons of Iraq are an organization of volunteers who have united to stand against terrorists in their homeland. They have been credited with helping bring peace to much of Iraq.
Steve Martinez, a law enforcement professional attached to the division's Company C, 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, said it became necessary to integrate women into security roles because terrorists began using females to carry out suicide attacks against Iraqis and Coalition forces.
Employing women at checkpoints, Martinez said, would "provide a complete and thorough search of suspect females with the utmost respect for the individual and local customs without compromising the safety of others."
The Daughters of Iraq will search other women in and around Yusifiyah to help prevent trafficking of weapons, explosives and dangerous materials. In addition to the significant security gains that these women will bring to the checkpoints, there are other advantages.
"The Daughters of Iraq will facilitate female empowerment and the creation of the group represents a significant step towards a properly functioning democratic society," said Sgt. Jason G. George, Company C intelligence noncommissioned officer. "While the group may face criticism from traditionalists, ultimately, their success will demonstrate their value to the populace."
Another benefit of the creation of the program is the opportunity for some of the more disadvantaged women to receive benefits, most of whom have been specifically targeted to join the program.
"We have been working to assist the impoverished women and, particularly, the widows in the area. There are limited employment opportunities for women widowed by insurgent violence and burdened with supporting their children," said 1st Lt. Chris Hafner, Company C intelligence officer. "This program is ideal for these women."
The details for Daughters of Iraq contracts are being finalized and will start with 30 women.
"Integrating patriotic Iraqi women into the Daughters of Iraq is a huge step in the right direction of freedom for the Iraqi people," said Staff Sgt. Thai A. Starkovich, military transition team noncommissioned officer in charge. "With the cooperation of the Iraqi Army and the Sons and Daughters of Iraq, the safety of Iraqis is a goal that is now visible on the horizon."
(Army Capt. Mike Starz is assigned to the 101st Airborne Divison's 3rd Brigade Combat Team.)