NANGARHAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan, Sept. 12, 2016, Sept. 14, 2016 —
As U.S. Army advisors entered the remote police training facility, a bright white lab coat stuck out against the backdrop of the sand-colored mountains in the eastern Afghan desert. The person wearing the lab coat is neither a police officer, nor a male; she is a doctor.
Heading toward the doctor is another woman, Army 2nd. Lt. Eva Gibbons, assigned to the 3rd Cavalry Regiment. Gibbons -- a native of Weare, New Hampshire, and graduate of the University of New Hampshire -- is serving as an advisor with the police advising team in Train, Advise and Assist Command-East. The team is responsible for advising the staff at the 202nd Police Zone headquarters here.
Gibbons herself is no stranger to being one of few females in an organization. She is a field artillery officer, a job she chose during Officer Candidate School.
“I did not hesitate to select field artillery,” Gibbons said of her choice of branch. “At the time, it was one of the only combat positions available to women. I love the fast pace and excitement that comes with conducting artillery operations.”
However, Gibbons is performing a completely different job. She is serving as an advisor for Yassmin, the Afghan doctor, who is currently the only woman working at the Nangarhar Regional Training Center. While Yassmin waits for construction on the RTC women’s facility to be completed, she comes to work every day preparing for her future duties. She will be responsible for the healthcare of all female recruits once they arrive.
“I am fearless,” Yassmin said, speaking through a translator. “I am ready to come to work here, in this remote area, on a daily basis. I am not afraid of anyone. The female police trainees are expected to arrive in less than one year. When the facility opens up, we can stop sending our [police] women to Turkey for training."
Both women share a common dedication to their respective countries. Gibbons grew up in a military family and after college she worked for two years as a store manager. Gibbons said the civilian job did not offer the values she was looking for, and she knew she wanted to join the Army.
Pride in Service
“The Army has always been a large presence in my life through family members serving around me, all the way back to my great grandfather,” Gibbons said. “My grandfather served in World War II and shared his dedication to duty and country with his children. This carried on through my father, who retired as a sergeant major, to my brother and me.”
Yassmin’s dedication to her country also comes from her father’s background in the military. Not only did her father serve, but her sister is also working with the police forces in another location. Yassmin said her goal has always been to serve her country and inspire other women.
“I am honored and proud that I, a lady, work among hundreds of men,” she said, smiling as she spoke with pride.
Three months in to her first deployment, Gibbons is embracing her role as an advisor. However, she is also taking the opportunity to learn from her counterpart.
“I was surprised when I began to learn as much from my counterparts as I was advising them,” Gibbons said. “Their culture is rich and has much to offer in seeing the world from another perspective. The Afghans have taught me to slow down in conversations, to know who I am talking to in order to best understand how to relate to them.”
Gibbons hopes to continue to serve as an artillery officer throughout her career in the Army. She said it’s more than a job to her; it’s a way of life and part of her family.
The career choice does not come without sacrifice, though, as Gibbons has a husband and son in the United States waiting for her return.