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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Ash Flat Marine works to improve communication

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Sgt. Julie Nicholson, Female Engagement Team leader, Marine Headquarters Group, I Marine Expeditionary Force, shakes hands with an Afghan child during a mission in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. Nicholson's team conducts searches of Afghan women and children and gains information from the women who are not permitted to interact with men outside of their families. Courtesy Photo [Order this photo]
Sgt. Julie Nicholson, of Ash Flat, Ark., grew up on a farm and had never left her home state of Arkansas but, when she heard that her friend's family would not be able to make it to his Marine Corps recruit training graduation, she knew she had to be there for him.

"I was working at Wal-Mart and didn't have a lot of money, so I sold one of my cows and bought a plane ticket to San Diego," said Nicholson. "I was there at his graduation and decided it was something I wanted to do. So I joined the Marine Corps."

Working as a supply administration Marine, Nicholson first deployed to Afghanistan in 2010.

"I was attached to 1st Medical Battalion so I spent a lot of time at the hospital ordering supplies and sending them out to the [Forward Operating Bases] that put in their requests," said Nicholson.

The following year, an opportunity came up for another deployment to Afghanistan.

"They were looking for a volunteer to be on a FET," said Nicholson. "I had tried to deploy for a team before but it didn't work out so when the chance came up, I went for it."

Now on her second deployment to Afghanistan, Nicholson's team works with U.S. infantry units and other coalition forces, by searching Afghan women for contraband, and communicating with them throughout Helmand Province.

"We've searched more than a thousand Afghan women," said Nicholson. "When a unit goes out to gather intelligence, there are times where women and children are secluded to a compound, and we are the only ones who can go in and question them about what is going on in their area."

A female interpreter is currently attached to the FET to translate, but before her arrival the team had to improvise to get their information.

"It was a lot harder before [our interpreter] arrived," said Nicholson. "We had to use charades and a lot of body language to communicate with the Afghan women. Having a linguist has made the job a lot easier and much more productive."

Nicholson is in her final month of this deployment and looks forward to continuing her career in the Marine Corps.

"I put in my package to be a drill instructor," said Nicholson. "I can only hope to share the experiences I have had during my time and help to influence the future generation of our Corps. I have so much love for the Marines I can't even put it into words."

As the only member of her family serving in the military, Nicholson said she is happy to be the one in a combat zone if it means someone else can sleep soundly.

"I have a tattoo that says 'For those I love, I will sacrifice,'" said Nicholson. "Volunteering to serve is a choice but someone has to do it. I would rather it be me fighting here in Afghanistan than any of my loved ones. I'm just grateful to know my family is safe back home."

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