Within the special operations ranks of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces is a small, elite unit with a unique characteristic: It’s made up entirely of women.

The Female Tactical Platoon is tasked with supporting the Afghan Special Security Forces during counterterrorism operations, specializing in searches, interrogations, and medical assistance.

The 120 female warriors are required to meet the same PT and training requirements as their male counterparts, and their 15-week-long deployment cycles of six-woman teams come with the same dangers and risks.

“I want to send a message that when were are on a mission, this is what we trained for,” one FTP member told the U.S. military’s public affairs team in April. “Don’t be scared of us, we are here to help you.”

Here’s a look at the women warriors of the FTP.

The members of the FTP come from the Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Interior and, in some cases, intensive recruiting from the local population in search of women with the right skill set.

afghan special forces female tactical platoonNATO/Martha Schaeffer
Female Tactical Platoon members prepare to search a compound during a capability exercise called a CAPEX, near Kabul, Afghanistan, July 10, 2018. The Female Tactical Platoon supports Afghan Special Security Forces during counterterrorism operations, specializing in the search, questioning and medical assistance of women and children.

FTP fighters specialize in carrying out searches and questionings of women and children, as well as offering medical assistance, by operating “in a way that is respectful of Islam and the Afghan culture,” according to a recent DoD release.

afghan special forces female tactical platoonNATO/Martha Schaeffer
Female Tactical Platoon members prepare to search a compound during a capability exercise called a CAPEX, near Kabul, Afghanistan, July 10, 2018. The Female Tactical Platoon supports Afghan Special Security Forces during counterterrorism operations, specializing in the search, questioning and medical assistance of women and children.

“Last year in Bagram, one of the girls was shot by the Taliban. She was injured, and was in shock and I stayed with her and helped her,” said one FTP member. “The training we do here helps with our missions.”

afghan special forces female tactical platoonNATO/Martha Schaeffer
Female Tactical Platoon members approach a target as a team during a capability exercise called a CAPEX, near Kabul, Afghanistan, July 10, 2018. The Female Tactical Platoon supports Afghan Special Security Forces during counterterrorism operations, specializing in the search, questioning and medical assistance of women and children.

There are plans to split the FTP into a training platoon, focused on recruitment and assessment, and a tactical platoon focused on upcoming deployments, a move that signifies the Afghan government’s support for the program and “a long-term investment in the growth of a unique component,” according to the DoD.

afghan special forces female tactical platoonU.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Doug Ellis
Female Tactical Platoon members fire during a qualification range near Kabul, Afghanistan, Mar. 13, 2018. FTP training focuses on marksmanship, language and combat-related skills, preparing them to serve with Afghan Special Security Forces on operations requiring interaction with women and children.

“We try to have girls talk about their real-life experiences [on deployment],” one advisor said. “Not just the task, but the purpose.”

afghan special forces female tactical platoonU.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Doug Ellis
A Female Tactical platoon member fires during a night range near Kabul, Afghanistan, Mar. 13, 2018. FTP training focuses on marksmanship, language and combat-related skills, allowing them to serve with Afghan Special Security Forces on operations requiring interaction with women and children.

While the culturally sensitive nature of their missions comes with intense operational requirements, the women that do join FTP course “are tenacious,” one NATO advisor told the DoD.

afghan special forces female tactical platoonNATO/Martha Schaeffer
A Female Tactical Platoon member “fast ropes” down a 30-foot rope during a capability exercise called a CAPEX, near Kabul, Afghanistan, July 10, 2018. Fast roping simulates a helicopter infiltration during operations. The Female Tactical Platoon supports Afghan Special Security Forces during counterterrorism operations, specializing in the search, questioning and medical assistance of women and children.

“Right now, we have more ‘little engines that can’ and we can really work with a woman who just doesn’t quit,” she said. “We’ve had some who will go until they pass out.”

afghan special forces female tactical platoonNATO/Martha Schaeffer
Female Tactical Platoon members exit the compound during a capability exercise called a CAPEX, near Kabul, Afghanistan, July 10, 2018. The Female Tactical Platoon supports Afghan Special Security Forces during counterterrorism operations, specializing in the search, questioning and medical assistance of women and children. (NATO photo by Sun Vega)

While Afghanistan is a far cry from the gender equality most expect from modern nations, FTP members see their platoon as the tip of a spear in opening the minds and hearts of their fellow countrymen.

afghan special forces female tactical platoonU.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Doug Ellis
An Afghan Female Tactical Platoon member fires during a qualification range near Kabul, Afghanistan, Mar. 13, 2018. FTP training focuses on marksmanship, language and combat-related skills, allowing them to serve with Afghan Special Security Forces on operations requiring interaction with women and children. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Doug Ellis)

“We need the girls. We need FTP,” one operator told the DoD. “The reason is, we have to serve women and if women join the Army or FTP, that’s a good thing because they can serve everything that is women.”

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