HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. (10/1/2012) -- In 1920, they were allowed to vote. In 1948, they were allowed to serve. And now, a select few female service members are finally getting the opportunity to enable special operations forces in Afghanistan.
Lt. Gen. Eric Fiel, Air Force Special Operations Command commander, pins a Bronze Star on Staff Sgt. Jamie Fremgen, 11th Intelligence Squadron analyst, Sept. 24, 2012 at Hurlburt Field, Fla. Fremgen was the first enlisted Airman to deploy as a Cultural Support Team leader. Her mission was to engage Afghanistan's female and adolescent population when interaction with male service members could be deemed culturally inappropriate. U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Christopher Williams
Political as it may be, Staff Sgt. Jamie Fremgen, 11th Intelligence Squadron analyst, proved it's not only possible, but necessary.
"On my first deployment to Afghanistan, I saw the girls on the Cultural Support Team in action, and I immediately wanted to be a part of it," she said. "For the last five years I wanted to do something more. Contribute more. I wanted to make a significant difference ... I knew being involved in this program would give me that rare opportunity."
But there was a small problem. The program was for female Army soldiers only.
With her mind set on her newest goal, that small detail didn't stop this Airman.
Fremgen said she ignored any comment involving "no" or "you can't do that" and applied for the program anyway. A few months later, she was accepted and went on to becoming the first enlisted Airman to deploy as a Cultural Support Team leader.
Fremgen's duties were vast and dynamic to success in Afghanistan. Her mission was to engage a nation's female and adolescent population when interaction with male service members could be deemed culturally inappropriate.
"Although my main job was to interact with the local females and children, I also protected them during hostile situations," Fremgen said. "And, hostile situations were common, especially during my first few months in country."
But Fremgen's mission wasn't just about being culturally sensitive, it was about results. Results were exactly what she got.
"On my first mission, I kept thinking to myself, 'Man, I really hope I don't let these guys down,'" she said. "But, I surprised myself (by enabling the mission) that day. Not only did that give me the confidence I needed, it made me want to go back. I felt like I helped. I felt like part of the team. I was officially hooked."
That first mission set the tone for the rest of her deployment.
In just six months, Fremgen enabled 32 direct action missions. She provided operational support to 98 females and 156 children.
For these efforts, she was awarded the Bronze Star Sept. 24 at Hurlburt Field, Fla., and was nominated for the Combat Action Medal.
Those who know Fremgen weren't surprised. At her current position as an intelligence analyst, Fremgen has been a hard worker from the get go.
"Jamie is the most gung ho person I know," said her former commander, Col. Michael Stevenson, 361st Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group. "Most Airmen who want to cross-train put in a package and go through the official process. Not Jamie. Without any technical school, formal training or outside help, she trained herself to be a full-motion video analyst. Now, she's one of the best."
Fremgen's current commander, Lt. Col. Brian Collord, 11th IS, agreed.
"She is a true inspiration and role model not only for the intelligence community, but for female Airmen everywhere," he said. "I couldn't be more proud and grateful for her service to the 11th IS, AFSOC and the SOF community, and our nation. I am truly honored to have served with her."
Her mother, Patricia Walters, said her daughter has always been a strong-willed person who stood up and fought for what she believed in.
"She has always been protective," Walters said. "When she was just 4-years-old, she wanted to stand up to a fifth-grader who was bullying her older sister on the bus. She was a tough little girl, and still is. Seeing her receive the Bronze Star is one of my proudest moments as her mom."
Fremgen said she couldn't have done it alone.
"I was surrounded by countless heroes," she said. "It was such an honor to have been given the opportunity to work alongside them and be accepted as part of their team. They had given up so much of their lives and were extremely professional in helping me succeed."
After almost 11 years of service, Fremgen said she is separating from the Air Force soon.
"I'll still be a reservist, but I plan to use the extra time to further my education," she said. "However, all my friends seem to think that won't last long. My heart is with the mission and everyone knows it."
By USAF Senior Airman Melanie Holochwost
Air Force Special Operations Command Public Affairs
Air Force News Service
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