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Protecting the force

An Army signaller performed a unique role last year as the commander of a female guardian angel team in Afghanistan on Operation Highroad.

Corporal Moira Walker, of Australia’s Federation Guard, deployed with Task Group Afghanistan’s Force Protection Element and was based at Camp Qargha near Kabul.

The former 3rd Combat Signal Regiment communications systems operator was the commander of a female force protection team that provided security for coalition female mentors of Afghan National Army instructors at the Marshal Fahim National Defense University.

Corporal Walker said she was training for an upcoming deployment to Iraq when her commander offered her the force protection position in Afghanistan.

“I didn’t say yes immediately; I wanted to know more about the role,” she said.

“I was daunted, not bythe guardian angel role, but the command role. I wanted to ensure I did at 100 per cent.

“My infantry friends told me that just because I wasn’t infantry didn’t mean I wasn’t capable.

“I decided I definitely wanted the job and the chance to challenge myself by commanding in a force protection role.”

Corporal Walker said her team was attached to Charlie Company, 3rd Royal Australian Regiment, for their training.

“Force preparation included advanced combat shooting techniques with dry-drills on our weapons every day, including weekends, and constant live-fire range shoots to boost our skills,” she said.

“The guardian angel training was amazing and our instructors ensured any flaws in our close protection techniques were corrected immediately.

“They prepared us to succeed in the best possible way and, when we deployed, we were confident with our skills.”

Nearly every day, the female soldiers were tasked with protecting the female coalition mentors to ensure their safety while they did their job.

Corporal Walker said it involved planning and orders to ensure she had the right ratio of force protection to mentors each day.

“Preparation included our actions-on and checking the casualty plan,” she said.

“We facilitated security for activities such as lessons, blank-firing training activities or live-fire range shoots.”

Afghan male and female trainees at the university range from young cadets through to battle-hardened veterans who were officers or senior non-commissioned officers.

Corporal Walker said the trainees were intrigued to see the Australian female guardian angels as it was unusual for Afghans to see western women in a force protection role.

“It was new to them, but it was good for them to see us day-to-day for the future integration of females into the ANA,” she said.

“We adjusted to the soldiers staring at us as we realised they weren’t trying to intimidate us; it was normal behaviour and gave us a guide to the atmospherics.

“The Afghan women in the Tolay [company] were lovely. We were friendly, but focused on the job we were there to do.”

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