Friday, October 28, 2011

In a new elite Army unit, women serve alongside Special Forces

While Congress still bans women from serving in combat units, the soldiers selected from this group will serve alongside the Army’s most elite units on the battlefield. The Army has never selected women to do a mission because of their sex, until now.

It is recruiting female soldiers to work closely with Special Forces teams and Ranger units during raids. Because women and children are often held in a separate room while soldiers search the compound, these teams go into villages in Afghanistan to build rapport with women, as it is culturally inappropriate for male soldiers to talk with them.

“We’ve been missing out on half of the population in Afghanistan because of cultural taboos,” said candidate Meghan Curran, a West Point graduate and first lieutenant in the artillery.

Female Marines began meeting with women in southern Afghanistan two years ago. Then in spring 2010, retired Navy Adm. Eric Olson, the commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, issued an order to create these Cultural Support Teams.

The teams are trained to have a deeper understanding of Afghan culture and to connect with women in the villages to gather information on enemy activities. The teams aim to create a dialogue between U.S. forces and Afghan women, which can help in medical clinics or building governance.

The teams have been deployed to Afghanistan for more than a year. While Army officials have praised the program, it is unclear how they are measuring its success except for anecdotal stories and requests for more CSTs by commanders in Afghanistan.

So far, 156 out of 233 candidates have been selected.

German naval commandos are called Kampfschwimmer or "combat swimmers". These German navy counterparts to the US Navy SEALs are Germany's oldest Special Operations Forces. The Kampfschwimmer roots go back to World War II.

Today's Kampfschwimmer formations are heavily involved in international operations against terrorism, including missions in the mountains of Afghanistan.

This e-book is written by a German Navy lieutenant who serves as a Kampfschwimmer team leader -- the equivalent of a US Navy SEAL platoon leader.

"German Navy SEALs" is a profile of the Kampfschwimmer units. The e-book covers the history of the Kampfschwimmer beginning with the World War II era; describes their organization, command structure, capabilities and training; discusses their cooperation with US Navy SEALS and other Special Operations Forces; and their role in German and NATO operational planning.