CAMP RIPPER, AL ASAD, IRAQ - -- In the animal kingdom, lions are widely recognized as one of the top species. Their immense strength, lightning speed and razor sharp jaws and claws make them a force to be reckoned with.
Like Marines, lions work as a team. A pride of lions is made up of both males and females. Males are responsible for the pride’s security, while the females are charged with hunting for prey. Without food, the males wouldn’t survive – without protection, neither would the females. It’s a circle; they both need each other to accomplish the mission.
A group of female Marines with Combat Logistics Battalion 1 recently completed Regimental Combat Team 2’s lioness training program in preparation for future operations.
“Female Marines are needed throughout the (area of operation) at (tactical checkpoints) to search the Iraqi women,” said Gunner Terrence D. Washington, the infantry weapons officer for Regimental Combat Team 2. “It’s our job to make sure they’re ready.”
The training matrix included classes on rules of engagement, escalation of force, an intelligence brief, Iraqi culture training and searching techniques.
“Knowing that our males won’t search their females, the Iraqis will sometimes pass their weapons off to the women,” said Cpl. Megan A. Cavanaugh, a personnel administration clerk with Headquarters Company, CLB-1. “Our presence will be a huge asset to the units out there. We can save Marines’ lives.”
For Cavanaugh, this will be her first experience off base since arriving in-country last August. Naturally, she is nervously anxious.
“Part of me is thinking ‘I’ve gotten this far without having to go outside the wire, why now?’” said Cavanaugh, a native of Philadelphia. “But I know it’ll be a good opportunity to learn something new. I want to say I did something out here other than just sit behind a desk and deal with pay and leave problems.”
The lioness program is part of a 30-45 day rotation of female Marines out to TCP’s within the AO. This was RCT-2’s first time offering the training since taking command of western Al Anbar province Jan. 20.
“Regardless of culture, women talk to each other,” said Washington, a native of Rochester, N.Y. “Get a female Marine one-on-one with an Iraqi woman, away from the men, and she might just give up some valuable information.”
Like most of the lionesses, Sgt. Samantha S. Shepard, a logistics vehicle system operator with Combat Logistics Company 111, CLB-1, benefited most from the searching techniques class.
“The staff sergeant who taught the class was out there, doing the same thing we’re getting ready to do,” said Shepard, a native of Mexico, Missouri. “It was very reassuring to hear what it’s like from a female’s point of view.”
Washington hopes the lioness program will eventually catch on and be implemented by units across the Marine Corps.
“If we’re going to make Iraq a better place, everyone’s going to have to contribute, including the females,” Washington said. “It’s got to be a team effort.”