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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

It's a girl's life in the Army! Portraits from the Afghan frontline show how female troops are winning hearts and minds in Afghanistan

By SARAH JOHNSON and IAN DRURY

On patrol: Lieutenant Jessica French visits an Afghan community in Helmand. As a Female Engagement officer, her jobs is to gain the support and trust of Afghan women

Even when you're 8,000 miles from home on the Afghan frontline, it seems a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do.
It might be reserving the shower for a hairwash, then letting your hair down after a hard day's work.
And even though you're in the desert, it's essential to bring all the toiletries you have at home to allow yourself a little pampering, as well as your non-regulation knickers.
These remarkable photos capture the everyday lives of the Army's women 'engagement officers' who fight in the vital battle for hearts and minds across Helmand.

Show and tell: Lieutenant French speaks to a crowd of mostly women. She believes education is key to a brighter future for female Afghans

Wash and go: Photojournalist Alison Baskerville wanted to capture 'the alternative view of life on the front line for women'. Her photos will be on display at the Oxo Tower Gallery from 11 November

Trained in Pashto, the Afghan language, they accompany infantry on patrols and build relationships with Afghan women in some of the most dangerous parts of Helmand - something local culture forbids their male colleagues from doing.
The women's lives have been documented by Alison Baskerville, a former RAF officer, who was granted access to the British Army's Female Engagement Officers (FEOs) and the women at the Afghan National Army's training centre in Kabul.

Foot patrol: Lieutenant French takes time in between patrols to clean her personal weapon, a 9mm Sig Sauer pistol

Miss Baskerville, who spent six weeks in Helmand, told the London Evening Standard: 'I'm trying to show the alternative view of life on the front line for women.
'I don't want to highlight that these women are exceptional or different from men. they want to show they're doing this job - to them a very essential job - and it's their passion and drive to do it well.

Downtime: A female solider puts her feet up in front of the television to catch up on Downton Abbey

'It was nice to "lift the uniform off" and capture all the things they like to do, like watching Downton Abbey. I'm just trying to show the human element of being a female solider.'
During the six weeks Miss Baskerville spent in Helmand, she followed Captain Anna Crossley, 31, a nurse at UCL hospital and Lieutenant Jessica French who spent six months going into villages and small settlements to talk to women and earn their trust.

We're all in this together: Men and women carry out washing duties without the help of modern conveniences side by side

On one occasion, she was taking photographs of Captain Crossley chatting to Aghan women when they came under gunfire and had to make an escape.
Captain Crossly told the London Evening Standard that one of the highlights of the tour was 'seeing the absolute fascination of women in the compound when I removed my helmet and protective glasses to speak to them in their own language'.
She added: 'Women are known throughout the world to bring people together, to focus on family and community. Just by being female, even in military uniform, you are seen to promote such things and are therefore more accepted.'
Lieutenant French said: 'The photographs demonstrate the more feminine traits of female soldiers can be used as a strength on operations.'

The essentials: Toiletries including deodorants, hair products, mouthwash and moisturising creams take pride of place on a makeshift dressing table

Trooping the colour: Brightly coloured women's underwear stands out against a dull background and more conventional items of military uniform

Forty winks: A female officer catches up on some sleep in her makeshift home before duty calls

Ready for action: Captain Crossley, a nurse at UCL hospital on a six-month tour in Afghanistan, stands in full military gear against a backdrop of mountains

Making friends: Anna's language training has helped her to gain access to compounds and the residents are intrigued by her.

Getting kitted up: Two female soliders prepare to head out on a joint patrol to engage with local Afghan families to train them in basic veterinary care. It is often the children's responsibility to look after the goats for the family

source: dailymail



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