The main purpose, as alluded above, is for the female soldiers and marines to interact with the women encountered since the culture of the place makes it hard/impossible for the foreign male soldiers to interact with the local females. But:
To the surprise of some commanders, the female Marines have sometimes connected more readily with Afghan men than have male Marines. Capt. Brandon Turner, the commander of G Company in southern Marja, said, “You put a lady in front of them, they’ll start blabbing at the mouth.”This program hit a bump when a Congressperson started asking questions about whether it violated current restrictions against women serving in combat units.
Current Pentagon policy bars women from joining combat branches like the infantry, armor and Special Forces, and Congress in the past has sought to restrict military women’s roles even more. But in a common side step during nearly a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, women are “attached,” rather than assigned, to combat units. The female engagement teams simply say they “accompany” Marine infantry units on their patrols.So, they have to dance along the edge of what is legal to do what they are supposed to do to contribute to the effort. This restriction against women in combat (already moved beyond that for pilots) is, like Don't Ask, Don't Tell, a dysfunctional relic, not unlike an always infected appendix, no longer necessary and can be positively harmful.
“The current policy on women in combat is outdated and does not apply to the type of war we are fighting,” she wrote to her parents, friends and this reporter in an e-mail after the legal review in July.There are only two responses I can make to this: either Ooorah! (if I am speaking like a Marine) or Hooah! (if I am speaking like a soldier). In other words, yes, ma'am, this policy is broken.
She said she told Corporal Coate: “Yes, this happened to you, but this is what’s happening in Afghanistan. This is awesome, you’re making a difference here.”