Female Army CST-2 members share their stories

Wearing a black head cover, Chief Warrant Officer 4 Raquel Patrick, Army Ordnance Training Detachment-Fort Gordon division deputy chief and Cultural Support Team-2 member, is shown asking an Afghan child  November, 2011 if she was enrolled in school and if not, if she’d like to go.  Many female CST-2 members like Patrick were deployed to Afghanistan and were given the primary duty of engaging the female population of Afghanistan. This is because in the Afghan culture, it is inappropriate for male military members to engage with female Afghans. (Courtesy photo)

Wearing a black head cover, Chief Warrant Officer 4 Raquel Patrick, Army Ordnance Training Detachment-Fort Gordon division deputy chief and Cultural Support Team-2 member, is shown asking an Afghan child November, 2011 if she was enrolled in school and if not, if she’d like to go. Many female CST-2 members like Patrick were deployed to Afghanistan and were given the primary duty of engaging the female population of Afghanistan. This is because in the Afghan culture, it is inappropriate for male military members to engage with female Afghans. (Courtesy photo)

LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- Today, less than half a percent of Americans serve in the U.S. military and of that number, 14 percent are women. Commonly, war stories are told through the eyes of men and it is rarely illustrated from a woman's perspective.

That is why five female Army veterans who were deployed to Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom from July, 2011 through March, 2012 came together to share their stories during a presentation Nov. 16 at Scottsdale Community College in Scottsdale, Arizona.

"The purpose of this presentation is to let students ask questions and become familiar with and educated by these incredible women," said Joseph Brett, Veterans Heritage Project vice president. "The Veterans Heritage Project's mission is to connect students with veterans. Today, we are using film to let veterans tell their stories."

The presentation was on behalf of the Veterans Heritage Project and a collaborative effort with the Scottsdale School of Film. Film students had the opportunity to record and capture the event.

During the presentation, the women were asked several questions and each had a chance to share their story.

The questions varied from why they decided to join the military to what training for special operations was like for women at the time.

"First, we were assessed and then we were selected to be trained," said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Raquel Patrick, Army Ordnance Training Detachment-Fort Gordon division deputy chief and CST-2 member. "We went to training to specifically support the special operations forces. Overall, I thought the training was a lot of fun, but it was challenging."

For one CST-2 member, the attitude of her fellow soldiers is what pushed her through.

"I think physically they push you to your limits, as far as how they didn't let you sleep," said Capt. Serena Stagnaro, Army Reserve CST-2 member. "But for me, being surrounded by all these women, who were very driven and positive made the situation bearable."

The women also shared the challenges of being a CST-2 member.

"The missions were difficult because it wasn't really cut and dry," Stagnaro said. "It was whatever the team needed us to do depending on their area of responsibility, and all the areas were very different."

Patrick then chimed in and explained the rewards of the job.

"I was also involved in Key Leader Engagement so I got to meet the town's leadership," Patrick said. "I would appear every weekend hoping that women would reach out. The biggest deal for me was when a woman presented a grievance at the town hall meeting. For her to feel that she could be represented was a big deal for me and that was the whole point of why we were there, to help them help themselves."
The women were also involved in missions to help women get to where they need to be safe.

"My first mission was quite unusual," said Rose Mattie, Army National Guard UH-60 Blackhawk pilot and CST-2 member. "We got word that a woman had dressed up as a man and made it to a remote base. The guys called us to ask what they should do with her. So we did some research and figured out what course of action we could take with her. We presumed that if she took that extreme to dress up as a man, there must be some extreme measures she was running from. We had two options to either send her back or send her to a shelter in Kabul, Afghanistan. So they put us on a Blackhawk and we went in and got her. We took her to Kabul, and the last thing I heard was she was getting her education there."

The event closed after a question-and-answer session.

The women are hopeful they left a positive impact while they were deployed to Afghanistan, and they are thankful to be able to share their stories.

"This is a really monumental time in history for us," Patrick said. "We're breaking through a lot of barriers today and I want it to be captured and shared with future generations."