Gender integration in Afghanistan's premier officer training establishment
10 March 2016
More than 40 female cadets have graduated Afghanistan's premier officer training institution in the last six months.
28-year old Australian Army Captain Sandi William said the graduations are a sign that progress in gender integration is slowly, but surely being made.
Lying peacefully on the Qargha plateau, west of Kabul, the Afghan National Army Officer Academy (ANAOA) strives to train the finest, and most fervent officer cadets in the country.
It's a goal in which Australian Defence Force personnel are at the forefront, providing mentors to advise and assist the academy's Afghan instructors as part of a five-nation, British-led task force.
The ANAOA, modeled on the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in the United Kindgom (and similarly the Royal Military College Duntroon), is designed to teach Afghan National Army officers key leadership and tactical skills.
Captain Williams provides mentoring in the areas such as communications, logistics, physical training and selection. She claims the role has its challenges but the rewards are exponential.
"A big part of the job is changing the perceptions of what females can do," she said.
"In many parts of Afghanistan, people still have the opinion that females shouldn't have careers, or that they might not be suited to a career within the military.
"We're trying to change that."
The 12-month officers' course is broken into three parts. First term covers basic soldier skills, the second term is focused on planning and platoon leading and the third term deals with counter insurgency methods.
275 cadets, including 13 females graduated the academy in February 2016.
The event marked the fifth graduation since the inaugural term commenced in October 2013, with the total number of graduates now exceeding 1,300.
Sandi said the last training cycle saw unprecedented levels of integration.
"Female cadets have been fully integrated into the field training exercises alongside their male colleagues.
"They now participate in tactical manoeuvres at night and command both male and female officer cadets during leadership training," she said.
Many graduates will go on to branch school and develop careers in areas such as human resources, logistics, information technology and medicine.
"One of my cadets wants to be a pilot, and another to command an infantry platoon," Sandi said.
"Slowly, as time progresses the integration is becoming more normal.
"With another 17, potentially up to 26, female cadets poised to start the next 48-week course, I think we're making a difference."
Approximately 250 Australian Defence Force personnel are deployed across Afghanistan in a variety of roles on Operation Highroad, Australia's contribution to the NATO-led Resolute Support mission.