Female Marines train to detain, search Iraqi women

22 Oct 2004 | Sgt. Luis R. Agostini 1st Marine Logistics Group

Lance Cpl. Cydney R. Rose never thought she'd have to conduct police-like searches on potential enemy combatants in Iraq.

After all, she's a warehouse chief, not a military policeman.

But just in case Rose, or any female Marine, is needed to detain, search and escort Iraqi females, Combat Service Support Battalion 1, 1st Force Service Support Group, trained more than 20 female Marines on detaining, searching and escorting procedures for females at Camp Fallujah, Iraq, Oct. 15, 2004.

"We definitely need some more female support with detaining and searching female Iraqis," said Staff Sgt. Jason C. Charles, an instructor for the course.

Charles, who has had to conduct female body searches as a military policeman with the 2nd Military Police Battalion in Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., noted that the MP detachment currently has only one female on hand, but with the help of properly trained female Marines, the battalion should be able to support the detaining and searching process.

"This training was in preparation for a possible requirement based on mission analysis and lessons learned from my time here in the spring," said Lt. Col. Kurt A. Kempster, 40, CSSB-1's commanding officer. "I look at the training as another capability set we can have in the CSSB to support (Regimental Combat Team 1), if needed."

"(Women were) called on a few times in the spring, so I felt it was sensible to train as many women as possible since the situation could be totally different this time around," said Kempster, who served as CSSB-1's executive officer in Iraq earlier this year.

Aside from the heightened cultural sensitivity, the actual detaining, searching and escorting of a female here isn't much different than back in the states, said Charles.

"Just as in the states, where a female police officer is called to search a female suspect, it would make sense to train females here on how to conduct searches," said Kempster, a native of Indiatlantic, Fla. "The infantry units normally do not have female Marines and so we are the source to turn to."

The female Marines currently deployed to Iraq are looking forward to helping their brothers-in-arms.

"If anybody (male or female), on or off base, is seen to be involved in suspicious activity or possess contraband, they would have to be detained and searched." said 1st Sgt. Irene Z. O'Neal, CSSB-1's sergeant major, and a 37-year-old native of San Angelo, Texas.  "It's important as female Marines that we do our part to come out here, and assist in detaining and searching (suspicious) women."

During the course, Charles instructed the Marines in approaching, restraining, searching and escorting suspects. Charles gave the Marines a chance to apply armbars, takedowns and flexi-cuffs on each other during the practical application portion of the class.

He also explained the importance of conducting a thorough search for everyone's protection.

"There have been numerous reports of women hiding weapons and other things under their dresses," said Charles.

The biggest thing taken into consideration when approaching suspects is Iraq's cultural sensitivity when it comes to its women. The Marines were advised to conduct searches out of the public view, and to have a female present to conduct the search at all times, if possible.

"What we, as males, are looking to avert is being out in town and having to search females and have the local population in an uproar," said Charles, a 30-year-old native of Spartanburg, S.C.

Charles also addressed the importance of having a witness other than a fellow Marine present during the detaining and searching process.

"The female detainee is going to be more cooperative when her sister, town elder or someone they trust is also watching," said Charles. "It's always good to have a corpsman or even a chaplain present."

Having a third party witness present protects the Marine conducting the search as well.
The Iraqis can't come out and make accusations against the searching Marine, said Charles.

Rose, a 20-year-old native of Mobile, Ala., felt that females possess a distinct advantage over males when it comes to searching females.

During the class, some of the students brought up points that the male instructor didn't mention.  They suggested that females may hide things in their hair or undergarments. Male insurgents have also used women and their traditional head-to-toe clothing to hide weapons as well.

"All females have instincts.  We know what to look for," said Rose.

At the conclusion of the class, the students walked away knowing that the training they received in that one hour could be applied at any time during the next seven months.

"We should have enough females to support the mission of searching female suspects," said Charles.
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