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Vanguard soldiers try out for female engagement teams
Spc. Eve Kintaro, an intelligence analyst with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, completes push-ups during an Army Physical Fitness Test, Aug. 28, on Fort Stewart, Ga. The APFT was the first of many tests given to Vanguard female soldiers, Aug. 27-30, to determine whom would be selected to become members of Female Engagement Teams groups of female soldiers who engage the local population and are attached to infantry units when deployed.

FORT STEWART, Ga. – Female soldiers with the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, endured a grueling selection process on Fort Stewart, Ga., Aug. 27-30, to prove themselves worthy of becoming members of female engagement teams.

Female engagement teams serve with maneuver units and are tasked to communicate with female populations on the front lines in deployed environments. To ensure they were fit for the unique duty position, “Vanguards” completed an Army Physical Fitness Test, ruck marches, long runs, buddy carries, leadership reaction course lanes, debates and various intelligence, personality and cultural awareness tests. Additionally, each candidate was assessed on their ability to work on teams and their capacity to handle stress.

First Lt. Rachel C. Washburn, the officer in charge of the selection process and a former member of a female engagement team, said the selection process had to challenge the candidates physically, mentally and emotionally because of the importance of the mission they volunteered for.

“They will enable those maneuver battalions and battle space owners to have a 100 percent understanding of their area of operation; due to cultural restrictions males cannot effectively engage more than 50 percent of the population without really just handicapping their mission and losing rapport in the area they are operating,” said Washburn, who is assigned to Company B, 4-3 Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 4th IBCT, 3rd Inf. Div. “With the female engagement teams [battle space owners] can not only improve security, … they’ll be able to build those relationships and tie the females to the higher level government, which would never happen otherwise.”

Pfc. Mandara L. Trine, a combat medic with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 4-3 BSTB, said the selection process was interesting because the group was always presented with new challenges—the constant one being having to work closely with new people.

“We had to cheer each other on just to make sure no one was falling behind,” the Coldwater, Mich., native said. “I think that it showed everyone’s strengths and … it did make everyone come together.”

Spc. Brandy M. Hamlin, a human resources specialist with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 4th IBCT, echoed Trine’s sentiments.

“[From] the physical challenges [of] ruck marches to insane runs, and then the mental challenge of trying to just push through the pain when your whole body is just aching, it was great to be on a team … where people encouraged you,” the Columbus, Ind., native said. “I think this will make me a more well-rounded individual and give me a better understanding of being able to work better in a team.”

Following the selection process, those candidates who proved themselves to be motivated and capable of being members of female engagement teams will be paired off and continue training for whatever mission may come in the future.
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