A Springbrook woman on a training mission in Afghanistan says working with the local women is one of the most enjoyable and interesting parts of her job overseas.
Capt. Samantha Wall, an electrical and mechanical engineering officer, arrived in Kabul in late June as part of the NATO team training the Afghan National Security Forces.
“I work as a advisor with the ANP (Afghan National Police) and there are actually three women, ANP officers, on site that I get to work with — the others rarely get to interact with the Afghan women,” Wall said. “It’s been interesting to see how reserved they are when there are men in the room and then when it’s just us girls, they can be quite chatty. … We share stories, talk about each others lives.”
The ANP is about 750 strong and only three of those are women, Wall said.
Wall, who just turned 25, was deployed with the 950 member contingent of Canadian troops in Operation ATTENTION, Canada’s part in the NATO training mission in Afghanistan.
“I work with six Americans and we all mentor. I do primarily maintenance. Right now the ANP’s maintenance is all contracted.
“I teach them how to care for their vehicles, how to work with the contractor, how to get and use the basic things they need for the trucks such as oil because if they don’t have it, they just drive without it and then the vehicles break down.”
The former Notre Dame High School student said Kabul is slightly different than how she initially imagined it.
“Kandahar is popularized more in the news so you see photos of open roads and mud huts but in Kabul there are a lot of paved roads — granted there might be some potholes that could eat a car. There’s a good amount of development going up so it’s an interesting contrast because you see new high rises and then you see some shanty-shacks built beside them. The old and the new is merged together.”
The weather had cooled down to around 15C on Monday, Wall said.
“When we got here, you could see the mountains in the distance and they were just brown. But now, you can actually see the snow on most of them.”
Both of Wall’s parents were in the military, sparking her interest in a career with the forces.
As a woman in the military, she said her experience has been “pretty good.”
She was the only female signed up in her first course back at the Royal Military College of Canada. There were three women in her second course, with 32 males.
“We’re in the lower numbers in my trade but if you do the work you’re expected to do, most people don’t have any issues with you.”
When Wall’s major asked her if she wanted to go on tour in Afghanistan, she responded with “I would do anything.”
“This is our last opportunity. I wanted to see what it was like. It’s what you join the military for. If you join the military and you don’t want to get deployed, I don’t know what you’re doing in it.”
Wall is slated to return home on Dec. 13 and will spend Christmas with her parents and brother in Springbrook during her month-long leave.
The majority of fellow advisors from the operation will also be leaving around the same time but there will be a continued presence in Kabul until the end of March, Wall said.
She is planning to take the army tactical officer’s course in the new year and will be posted to a maintenance officer position sometime in summer 2014.
“I’m hoping for a position in Edmonton, close to home, but you never really know until you get that posting message.”