War on Terrorism

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Female Wisconsin Guard Soldiers prepare to make history

Wisconsin National Guard Public Affairs Office

Former Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger once told President Ronald Reagan that women were too valuable to be in combat.

"I will tell you that I think women are too valuable not to be in combat," Command Sgt. Maj. Eddie Noland, the top enlisted Soldier in the 3rd Ranger Battalion, told 56 females who graduated from the inaugural Cultural Support Training Course at the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, Fort Bragg, N.C. on July 19.

Females like Wisconsin Army National Guard 1st Lt. April Nelson of Viroqua, Master Sgt. Karen Dumke of Waupun, Sgt. Sonia Buchanan of Cottage Grove and Sgt. Kristen Elegeert of De Pere who were among the graduates. All are now trained to do what Special Forces troops have great difficulty doing - contact and communicate with Afghan women and children. The Guard Soldiers left Wisconsin in May to complete training and will soon be en route to their deployment to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom with an Army special operations unit.

Brig. Gen. Mark Anderson, Wisconsin Army National Guard commander, and State Command Sgt. Major George Stopper attended the graduation.

"We all should be proud of the professional and dedicated manner that these ladies conducted themselves," he said. "It is not only a testament to the quality of each of those Soldiers, but a reflection on the [Wisconsin Army National Guard] as a whole on the type of Soldiers we have in our formations. This continues to be just another indicator on the tremendous strides the Wisconsin Army National Guard has made over the past few years."

Noland remarked that 240 females signed up for the program. Only 106 were selected for assessment, and 59 of those attended the Cultural Support Team training.

"You are writing the history of women in combat as you fight," Noland told the graduates. "You are redefining the role of females in combat and in the military.

"You are going to embark on a long, tough but rewarding journey," he continued. "The fact that you volunteered - fully knowing the hazards of this assignment - says a lot about your character, selfless service and values as a leader."

The Cultural Support Training Course educates selected female enlisted, warrant and commissioned officers in the basic capabilities required to access relevant female and adolescent populations in support of Army special operations forces. The training focused on general culture, regional culture and language, mental and emotional endurance, engaging local populations, medical skills, tactics, reporting and use of interpreters.

State Command Sgt. Maj. George Stopper said this mission represents a historic leap forward for the U.S. armed forces.

"These Soldiers will not only be assigned to operate in austere conditions with combat troops, they may be among the first female Soldiers to be combat troops," he said.

Cultural Support Team members will go out on missions with Army Rangers and Special Forces Teams and will interact with Afghan citizens on a daily basis. As females, they can interact with Afghan women and children without violating cultural taboos. Taking part in these missions requires the female Soldiers to be in peak physical condition as well as mentally strong.

Four female Wisconsin Army National Guard Soldiers - Master Sgt. Karen Dumke, Sgt. Kristen Elegeert, Sgt. Sonia Buchanan and 1st Lt. April Nelson - graduated from the Cultural Support Training Course on July 19 at the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School at Fort Bragg, N.C. The Cultural Support Training Course educates selected female Soldiers in the basic capabilities required to access relevant female and adolescent populations in support of Army special operations forces, a segment of the Afghani population culturally inappropriate for male Soldiers to communicate with. The training focused on general culture, regional culture and language, mental and emotional endurance, engaging local populations, medical skills, tactics, reporting and use of interpreters. Wisconsin National Guard photo by Lt. Col. Julie Gerety

Brig. Gen. Mark Anderson, commander of the Wisconsin Army National Guard, presents a commander's coin to Master Sgt. Karen Dumke as Sgt. Sonia Buchanan, who received a coin moments earlier, looks on. Dumke and Buchanan were among four female Wisconsin Army National Guard Soldiers to graduate from the Cultural Support Training Course on July 19 at the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School at Fort Bragg, N.C. The Cultural Support Training Course educates selected female Soldiers in the basic capabilities required to access relevant female and adolescent populations in support of Army special operations forces, a segment of the Afghani population culturally inappropriate for male Soldiers to communicate with. The training focused on general culture, regional culture and language, mental and emotional endurance, engaging local populations, medical skills, tactics, reporting and use of interpreters. Wisconsin National Guard photo by Lt. Col. Julie Gerety

Stopper said he was extremely proud that four of the graduates came from the Wisconsin Army National Guard.  "Proud of their commitment, their performance, their extreme dedication and selfless service," he explained. "I am honored to serve alongside Soldiers of this caliber - leaning forward, setting the example and making history."

"They epitomize the best of what the Wisconsin Army National Guard has to offer," Anderson added. "We wish them the best of luck [and] a safe deployment."

Cultural Support Team members are expected to deploy with an Army special operations unit shortly after graduation. The deployment is expected to last approximately 10 months, for a total commitment to the Cultural Support Team program of 12 months.

No comments: