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Monday, May 2, 2016

Ash Flat Marine works with Afghanistan children

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Sgt. Julie Nicholson, a Female Engagement Team leader from Ash Flat, Ark., interacts with Afghan children during a shura at Patrol Base Georgetown, Afghanistan, May 3, 2012. The FET taught the group of children how to properly brush teeth before handing out tooth brushes to each participant.
The sound of laughter filled the air as children from nearby villages gathered around the U.S. Female Engagement Team 3 at Patrol Base Georgetown, Afghanistan, on May 3.

Sgt. Julie Nicholson, 25, of Ash Flat is a member of the team, which works to strengthen ties between the U.S. military and Afghan residents,

Through interaction with the Afghan population, the FET aims to build community relationships, increase women's governance, and also learn about the community health, education, security and economic development in the areas they visit.

In support of 1st Battalion, 8th Marines, Regimental Combat Team 6, the FET accompanies in daily patrols around Forward Operating Base Whitehouse as well as weekly shuras, where local Afghans and Marines meet together.

"The best part of the job is going out to talk with the locals and to learn what's going on in the area and how we can help them," said Nicholson, a FET leader.

During the shura, elders met with Marine leaders to discuss the pressing needs of Afghans in the area. While the adults discussed current operations, the FET interacted with the children, learning about nearby schools the children attend and the work they do to help their parents out around the house.

"I would hope that through working with the children, it shows that the Afghan women can have a voice here as well," said Nicholson.

Using a female interpreter who recently joined the team, the FET also taught a class on brushing teeth, before handing out toothbrushes and toothbrush holders to each child.

"Without an interpreter, we basically had to play charades to talk to the women," said Nicholson. "The Afghans wouldn't let a male interpreter go into the female compounds so communication was difficult."

Now with the linguist on their team, the FET can more successfully work with women and children which will improve their relationships and establish rapport.

The daily missions test the FET's determination, but members say the effort is worth it.

"What I like most is that being with the FET is challenging but rewarding," said Cpl. Michelle Berglin, a FET member. "It's physically challenging because we're out with the guys every day, wearing the same gear they do and it's mentally challenging because we interact with 100 percent of the population [we encounter] but our effect on the Afghans is worth it."

Though the team will move around Helmand province throughout their deployment, the focus remains to help make Afghanistan a better place for women to live and children to grow up.

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