CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan -- Chaplain of the Marine Corps Rear Adm. Margaret Kibben visited and talked with the Marines and sailors of Regional Command Southwest’s incoming Female Engagement Team aboard Camp Leatherneck, Helmand province, Sept. 22.
Kibben, a native of Warrington, Pa., and the first female to hold the Marine Corps’ highest chaplain’s billet, took time during her tour of RC(SW) to visit the servicewomen to show them how important she finds the mission of engaging Afghan women to be.
“I feel very strongly about what the mission of the FET team is,” Kibben said. “It’s a different element of military engagement.”
Kibben explained she feels it is crucial to the counterinsurgency mission for troops to build relationships with Afghans. This is one of the biggest parts of the FET mission- to go out in local villages and build relationships with Afghan women by talking with them and helping address their needs.
“It’s going to help that transition from a military environment to a diplomatic environment, where in fact [the Afghans] will be able to sustain themselves,” she explained.
During her visit with the nearly 40 female Marines and sailors of the group known as FET 11.2, Kibben talked with them about adapting to their new way of life, and her faith in the great things they are about to do. She told them she looks up to the women of the engagement team.
“There are two kinds of courage,” said Kibben. “There’s the courage that enables a Marine to put on their uniform and all the gear that goes with it, and to walk into a hostile territory and to perform what in fact is a very kinetic mission. That takes an awful lot of courage.
“Then there’s this other level of courage. That’s the courage that enables them to kind of step back from that role and go into somebody else’s environment and get to know who they are. That takes an awful lot of personal courage, because you’re actually sharing a part of yourself.”
This visit with the incoming team was not Kibben’s first time sitting down and talking with a female engagement team. In October 2010, Kibben met with the women of FET 11.1, the team 11.2 is getting ready to replace, during a tour of Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C.
After seeing FET 11.1 prepare to deploy, and now preparing to see them at the end of their tour, Kibben explained she feels as though she has come full circle how critical the FET mission is.
“She was very comforting, genuine and I believe she really lifted their spirits,” said Gunnery Sgt. Nicole van Loo, the FET company gunnery sergeant and linguist manager, and a native of Stockton, Calif. “It was really appreciated.”
Kibben, who is touring RC(SW) with the Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. John F. Amos, and Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, Sgt. Maj. Michael Barrett, will be returning to the states this week. Meanwhile, in the upcoming days, the servicewomen of FET 11.2 will be making their way out to the forward operating and patrol bases that will become their homes until the end of their deployment.