Fearless Female Troops Unite, Empower One Another
by U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Shaiyla B. Hakeem
Trekking along a road blazed more than a century ago by the late
Opha May Johnson, the first female to enlist into the U.S. Marine
Corps, is no easy feat. Nevertheless, 101 years later, thousands
have courageously followed her footsteps encouraging powerful women,
of all nationalities, and proudly wearing the eagle, globe and
Members of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU)
Female Engagement Team (FET) trained in Jordan for two weeks in
August with the Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army (JAF) Quick Reaction
Force (QRF) FET focusing on bilateral development, interoperability,
and strengthening proficiency and relationships between Jordan and
the United States. Jordan is not only one of the United States’
closest allies in the region, but in the world as a whole. The JAF
QRF FET is comprised of a platoon of female Soldiers trained for
rapid response situations where male Soldiers cannot realistically
engage with women encountered by the armed forces.
August 7, 2019 - Members of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit Female Engagement Team (FET) and the Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army Quick Reaction Force FET pose together for a group photo following the closing ceremony for the subject matter exchange between the two countries. The U.S. is committed to the security of Jordan and to partnering closely with JAF to meet common security challenges. (Image
created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Shaiyla B. Hakeem)
Marine Corps Capt. Katie Modzelewski, with the 11th MEU FET, served
as the officer in charge. The team is a platform for females to come
together, develop team enablers within their varying military
occupational specialties, and encourage strong female leadership.
The screening process examined the candidates’ physical fitness
levels, marksmanship scores, martial arts belt level, previous
instructor experiences, unique language capabilities, but most of
all, their desire to be a part of the FET.
“Maybe I built
the team, but none of this would have been as successful had they
[the FET] not been so dedicated; wanting to be here and being as
mature as they are,” Modzelewski said humbly, “I couldn’t be more
proud of them.”
According to Modzelewski, the language
barrier between the two countries presented a challenge, but the
training could not have gone any better, unless they had more time
with the JAF QRF FET. The FETs took time to openly discuss
similarities and differences between the American and Jordanian
cultures, specifically with women in the military, to gain an
overall better understanding of one another and facilitate bonding.
Modzelewski said it was an honor for herself, and the team, to train
alongside the Jordanians.
“Although we wear different
uniforms, it’s unique to see different women together,” said
Modzelewski, “When you come together as a group of strong women, you
just have to embrace it and learn from each other.”
Marine who was motivated by her passion for female unity and
empowerment is Sgt. Elia Balbaloza, with the 11th MEU FET. She has
served as a Marine for more than seven years. She said she loves to
share what she has learned with all women, regardless of ethnicity.
She has trained with Bahraini, Romanians and now Jordanians.
According to Balbaloza, she wants to see females grow and find the
inner confidence they may have never known they had.
seeing strong women and I love women empowering other women,” she
explained, “Us [women] coming together and showing how we can work
together and do great things as a team is so important.”
Training areas during the two weeks included emergency medical care,
fundamentals of marksmanship, live fire ranges, weapons handling,
physical fitness, personal security, martial arts and several other
areas of military interest.
Balbaloza wants to teach and
pass the knowledge she’s inherited from past teams and former
leadership to younger Marines and military women so they can then
transfer that wisdom on and grow as a force. She explained that
being a woman in the military can sometimes be hard, but it’s all
about teamwork. She said when someone on her team goes down, the
entire team goes down together; when one succeeds, they all succeed.
“We [FET] are here trying to let the world know that we want
powerful women,” explained Balbaloza, “We want women who want to
help each other and see each other grow to become a great force, a
force to be reckoned with.”
Madaba resident Pvt. Hanady Al-Shakhatreh,
with the JAF QRF FET, has been in the military for two years.
According to Al-Shakhatreh, JAF members would visit her school each
Monday and Wednesday to conduct training; this inspired Al-Shakhatreh
to serve her country. She has participated in FET training with
other military branches, but feels she greatly improved herself
through the 11th MEU training. She learned a few English commands
for firing during range operations and now feels she can solve any
problem she faces.
“I love my country,” said Al-Shakhatreh
through an interpreter, “I feel happy to know many things and have
The U.S. military has a long-standing
relationship with Jordan to support our mutual objectives by
providing military assistance to the JAF consistent with our
national interests. The Boxer Amphibious Ready group and the 11th
MEU are deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support
of naval operations to ensure maritime stability and security in the
Central Region, connecting the Mediterranean and the Pacific through
the Western Indian Ocean and three strategic choke points.
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