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First female Marine advisor heads to Afghanistan

By Cpl. Andrew S. Avitt , Marine Air Ground Task Force Training Command 29 Palms

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Dec. 13, 2010 — CENTCOM

Staff Sgt. Tricia McBride an advisor with the logistical embedded training team and native of Wilmington, Del. is the first female Marine to graduate through Advisor Training Group to become an advisor to afghan and coalition forces in Afghanistan. (Photo by Cpl. Andrew S. Avitt)

TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. (Dec. 13, 2010) — Some members of the Afghan National Army are in for a surprise when they meet their new instructor, Staff Sgt. Tricia McBride, the first female to receive the Advisor Training Group’s stamp of approval to advise host nation forces in Afghanistan.

After being the first female to graduate through the Advisor Training Group’s program, McBride, from Wilmington, Del., will be deploying with a team of six to teach and evaluate Afghan military logistician instructors in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Although anxious about her upcoming deployment, her voice was mixed with excitement as she spoke.

“It’s a good feeling,” she said. “To be the first at anything is good, but to be the first female especially in the Marine Corps, is just great.”

But it’s only the beginning for McBride and the rest of the team.

Since the Taliban takeover in 1996, Afghan women have not been allowed to attend schools or work outside their homes, making professional interaction with women an anomaly for most Afghan men. “The biggest challenge that I’m facing now is the reaction to me teaching a class,” she said recalling bits of Afghan cultural lessons throughout her training, “I have been told they’re not going to take me seriously, and they’ll just get up and walk out of the classroom.”

During the course, McBride and the team developed a better understanding of an Afghan’s perspective at the Cultural Learning Center, where they were exposed to the language and other cultural differences.

“Let’s just say I haven’t heard a lot of positive things as far as females being instructors, because the men do look at the women differently there,” she said, launching into her intended solution. “I’m going to show them that I’m just like the rest of the guys. I’m going to show them that, although I am a woman and I might do some things a little different, we’re all brothers and sisters. We are all here to help each other and to learn from each other. So hopefully just because I’m a woman, they won’t take that away from me.”

McBride also received courses adherent to the advisor training course curriculum, learning some basic principles of advising, such as etiquette, and common challenges that advisors face, said Capt. Ben Lawless a supply officer, instructor and assessor with the ATG.

“I think they have done very well,” Lawless said. “They have shown a thorough understanding of how to use an interpreter while executing a class to a host nation force.”

Extending his confidence to McBride’s unique challenge, Lawless continued, “Staff Sgt. McBride is professional enough that, whatever situation she encounters while working with coalition and Afghan security forces, she’ll be able to handle it.”

The team, with their pre-deployment training behind them, is focusing on the year ahead.

“It’s going to be important for their teachers to be proficient and to convey the message properly in order to get their logistics system running well,” said Capt. Reymond Tung, officer in charge of the six-man team, and native of Potomac, Md. “I think [McBride] gives us some versatility in our team, but at the same time we understand it might pose some challenges.

We don’t necessarily know what it’s going to be like until we get there, but we are going to have to adapt and overcome, he said.”