Cpl. Rebekah D. Hall and a member of the Sisters of Fallujah search handbags for contraband at an entry control point. (Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Robert Medina)
FALLUJAH, Iraq (May 8, 2008) – Marines on a female search team and Iraqi women with the “Sisters of Fallujah” program have been working together at an entry control point here to help make the city of Fallujah a safer place.
The program was formed because females were needed to search other females. In Islamic tradition, a man touching a woman who is not his wife is considered offensive.
Just like Iraqi security forces that have been assuming more responsibilities, Iraqi women are striving to do the same with the help of Marine FSTs.
“(The Sisters of Fallujah) are our eyes and ears inside the booth, where we cannot go,” said Sgt. William A. Lamascus, sergeant of the guard of ECP-1. “It helps to have them here because when they find things, they bring it to our attention.”
Sisters of Fallujah came together in December 2007, to help stop the smuggling of contraband into the city. In the past, women and children have been used to transport forbidden items that can be used to make improvised explosive devices, as well as other items that are not allowed into the city for the safety of the citizens who live there.
“I wanted to help the people be safe in their own city,” said a Sister of Fallujah.
“It is our job to put forth the effort to stop bad people from bringing in contraband,” she said after being with the group for four months.
Some days are busier than others.
“Today is Otlah, a holiday for Iraqi people or the weekend,” said another Sister. “Today, we searched a little more than 2,000 people at this checkpoint.”
Marines help the Iraqi women on these busy days with the daunting task of searching all the women and children that go into the city.
“We are out here to make sure that the searches are done correctly,” said Lance Cpl. Corina J. Hernandez, basic water support technician and FST member with Combat Logistics Battalion 1, 1st Marine Logistics Group. “They do a really good job and they care about what they do.”
The Sisters of Fallujah risk their own lives each day, as well as their families’, to help fight terrorism.
“They are more concerned about other people’s safety than their own,” said Hernandez, from Dededo, Guam.
“Before, we did all the searching ourselves,” said Cpl. Rebekah D. Hall, combat engineer and FST member with CLB-1, 1st MLG. “Now, we work together and supervise the search techniques that have been taught to the Sisters of Fallujah.”
Hall, from San Diego, said being a part of the FST gives her a sense of accomplishment here in Fallujah. She added that the female Marines also provided security for the Sisters of Fallujah.
“This is how we can help out the infantry guys,” said Hall.
For Lance Cpl. Amanda M. Molina, basic water support technician and FST member with CLB-1, 1st MLG, this was her first time working with the Sisters of Fallujah.
“It was interesting to see a different culture,” said Molina, from Fullerton, Calif. “I feel like I am needed. It was a good experience to be able to work with the Sisters of Fallujah.”