26th MEU Female Engagement Team trains with Kuwaiti Police
By Capt. Lindsay Pirek, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit
KUWAIT CITY, Kuwait -- U.S. Marines assigned to the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit conducted an exchange of information with the Kuwait Ministry of the Interior VIP Protection Unit, Female Division, Jan. 31 to Feb. 11, 2016, in Kuwait City, Kuwait.
The Marines have backgrounds in synchronized swimming, figure skating, and ballet, and they all have one thing in common -- a desire to empower women in a male-dominated profession.
The 26th MEU’s Female Engagement Team is made up of female Marines with different military occupational specialties who volunteered to participate in a subject matter expert exchange with female Kuwaiti police officers.
The exchange is part of a United Nations’ initiative to foster equal rights for half of the world’s population.
United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 recognizes the role women play in restoring and maintaining peace and security. Subsequent resolutions aim to “increase women’s participation in all efforts related to peace and security and to strengthen the protection of women in situations of armed conflict,” according to the United States National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security (WPS).
The National Action Plan on WPS was published in December 2011 to “empower half the world’s population as equal partners in preventing conflict and building peace in countries threatened and affected by war, violence, and insecurity.”
The Department of Defense is tasked with leveraging the expertise of female service members to encourage and model gender integration in partner nations’ and to encourage the increased participation of women in foreign police and military forces.
“I was introduced to the VIP Protection Unit when they asked the U.S. Embassy to introduce self-defense tactics to their ongoing training of new female police officers to their Female Division. We conducted two Bilateral Exchange Efforts in 2014 and 2015. This SMEE is the next level and showcases the importance of the Female Engagement Teams and how they enhance capabilities and interoperability on a tactical level, but also serve the greater strategic goal posed by our WPS Presidential Directive,” said Lt. Col. Melody Mitchell, program lead, Office of Military Cooperation-Kuwait, U.S. Embassy, Kuwait City, Kuwait.
The exchange focused on personal security detachment operations, and prisoner searching and handling techniques, as well as self-defense and close quarter combat drills.
“These women [VIP Protection Unit, Female Division] are all trailblazers, they are the role models for the young girls of Kuwait,” explained Mitchell. “They play a critical role because terrorists in the Middle East have capitalized on cultural norms and use women to gain an advantage. We must do the same to match and overcome their efforts. Kuwait is wise to integrate women into their security apparatus.”
“The women provide personal security for VIPs. Their training includes law enforcement-type techniques and marksmanship,” said Capt. Jamie Ash, the FET Officer in Charge, and the 26th MEU adjutant.
“We were able to show each other our individual techniques, and then combine them to increase proficiency. The women requested information about self-defense since they do not have qualified female instructors available. As Marines, our Marine Corps Martial Arts Program incorporates a mixture of armed and unarmed combative techniques from several different disciplines,” said Ash.
“We demonstrated basic unarmed compliance techniques that can be used in law enforcement environments. They observed joint manipulations, take-downs, and compliance maneuvers,” explained Staff Sgt. Hembree, a MCMAP black belt instructor, and the 26th MEU’s maintenance management chief.
The Marines exchanged procedures for personal security formations, reacting to contact with a threat and hasty and deliberate searches with the Kuwaitis in order to share best practices and enhance interoperability.
“We practiced security formations and actions for a variety of scenarios, from a passive to hostile environments,” said Ash. “We really focused on exchanging information on searches as these women are the only ones that can search women and families for their unit.”
Prior to the training exchange, the female Marines reviewed fundamental weapons handling, law enforcement techniques and procedures, and personal security training with detachments internal to the MEU. Marines with the Law Enforcement Detachment and Reconnaissance Battalion provided training to bolster the skills that all Marines learn at Marine Combat Training.
When speaking to the group, Mitchell stated, “Both military and police women represent a lot, and you have serious and important roles to play as ambassadors in security. How you work, act, and lead is continuously watched and I know you will continue to diligently prove how critical you are to security in Kuwait and the Middle East. I am grateful for the growing support of programs like this, the excellent partnership between the U.S. and Kuwait.”
The 26th MEU is embarked on the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group and is deployed to maintain regional security in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations.