Oct. 1, 2019 —
COBAN, Guatemala – The role of women has steadily increased in the United States military. Stories of women reaching positions of higher authority with thousands of troops under their command and control are becoming more common. News of females graduating elite courses such as the U.S. Army Ranger Qualification Course or the Special Forces Assessment and Selection are starting to be shared throughout different mediums. It seems that slowly the glass ceiling is being broken within the U.S. military.
The process may take a little longer for countries across Central and South America, but the Guatemalan military is making advances by expanding the role of women in United Nations peace keeping operations with a recently established Female Engagement Platoon.
Special Operations Command South participated in an information exchange seminar focusing on women integration and equality in Coban, Guatemala, at the Centro de Entrenamiento de Operadores de Paz (CREOMPAZ), which translates to ‘Training Center for Peace Operators,’ Sept. 24, 2019.
“Traditionally, women in the military were employed in domestic roles such as working in the kitchen, laundromat, and used for cleaning,” said Guatemalan Sgt. Maj. Denise Marisol Alonzo, Sergeant Major in Guatemala’s Estado Mayor de Defensa Nacional. “It has evolved because they (our military) have given us the opportunity to obtain positions within the military like noncommissioned officers and technical specialists.”
The information exchange started with a brief history of how the role of women has evolved within the U.S. military. The discussion with the 19 female Guatemalan military attendees was led by SOCSOUTH’s Civil Affairs NCO, Sgt. 1st Class Elizabeth Almonte.
“From the partner nation capacity side, they are just in the stage in their military where they’re starting to incorporate women into different roles other than support and realizing the benefits and the advantages of incorporating women at levels of leadership, at planning, at different military occupational specialties,” she said. “It’s important to understand that it’ll help them grow to get to a point where they’ll have full integration of women in their militaries.”
Throughout the day topics such as the evolution of the female role in the U.S. Army, lessons learned from Civil Affairs operations, and NCO professional development were discussed.
“I would imagine it’s the same as in any other place, both the men and women have different activities when interacting with people,” said Guatemalan Corporal Sheyly Carolina Chacach, Specialist for EMDN. “In this case, women have shared commonality of being a daughter, being a mother, being a sister, and we live in society with this discrimination. Being in the military we receive different tools to develop ourselves in a different manner.”
One of those tools was the opportunity to attend the seminar and how the information will be shared amongst each other, explained Chacach.
“In reality, it’s to reinforce women’s knowledge,” she said. “…It’s one of those tools that not all of us can receive because we understand that every course there is only a certain quantity allowed, but I find this seminar very interesting because we have women who are coming from different commands. Then, obviously, they may go to a different command and we may want to discuss things a little more or they may want to know ‘What did you go do? You left for two months.’ So this way information is also shared and as well as the knowledge.”
Helping build partner nation capacity in order to increase security and stability in the region is always at the forefront of SOCSOUTH’s priorities. This engagement helped give insight for future initiatives.
“I think the seminar went better than expected,” said Almonte. “I was able to obtain a (level) of understanding on where these Soldiers, these Female Soldiers, are coming from. Where their previous positions and how they’re being utilized now. I felt it was successful in identifying some of the challenges they are currently experiencing in their newly acquired role as Civil Affairs Soldiers and Cultural Support Experts.”
The project was produced in support of a SOCSOUTH Military Information Support Program aimed at increasing the image of the Guatemalan Accion Integral for female engagement and institutional professionalization. These type of engagements empower SOCSOUTH Military Information Support and Civil Affairs Teams to enable our partners and increase their security proficiencies.
The all-female platoon formed in Guatemala will be deployed in the Izabal region to assist with humanitarian and peace operations.