GULF OF ADEN, At Sea --
“Shooters, stand by… Targets!” A U.S. Marine with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit announces during a deck shoot aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) July 8, 2015.
A row of Marines lined up in front of their targets present their M9 Beretta pistols and take their shots. Although deck shoots are a regular training event aboard the ship, this shoot in particular is different. Eighteen female Marines are on line waiting for the next drill, a change of scene from the typically male-dominated deck shoots.
These Marines are part of the 15th MEU’s Female Engagement Team, or FET, who recently started their training process to become more proficient areas such as marksmanship, detainee handling, and public speaking.
The 15th MEU’s FET is comprised of female Marines from a range of different military occupational specialties and various units. These Marines were pulled together to do hands-on training, patrols, or actions that males cannot in the Middle East, such as searching women and children, due to cultural boundaries.
This capability broadens the MEU’s ability to build relationships and liaise with a segment of the population they otherwise couldn’t in certain parts of the world.
“The FET was on a volunteer basis,” said 1st Lt. Jennier Mozzetta, a team leader with the 15th MEU’s FET. “[We] passed the word that we are looking for females that are very engaged, have a lot of initiative, who want an opportunity to go out and do something different, and want to better themselves professionally.”
“We thought we’d only get about five or six females, but we actually got 23 applicants who were really excited and really wanted to do this, ” said Mozzetta.
The FET gives these Marines an opportunity to grow and develop while they participate in a unique experience in the Marine Corps.
“We all strive to be something more than what we are, and be a part of something bigger,” said Lance Cpl. Chevon Ferrell, an ammunition technician with Combat Logistics Battalion 15, 15th MEU. “The FET gives us that. We have the ability to train more, help other people in other countries and also learn from them.”
Training began with basic marksmanship, detainee searches, and presentation and public speaking skills.
“[The Marines have] done very well,” Mozzetta said. “They’re very engaged and receptive to the instructors. They’ve taken their weapons handling more in depth with more manipulation, more theory and more practice, so they’ve become very good at it.”
The group of Marines’ motivation is apparent in their hard work and good attitudes during each day of training.
“I think they’re doing outstanding,” said Sgt. Jeanette Ventura, an airframe mechanic with Medium Marine Tiltrotor Squadron 161 (Reinforced). “It’s really refreshing to see a bunch of young female Marines, or just Marines in general, adapt, overcome and improve with everything we have learned.”
After the first week of training, the list of Marines were narrowed down and specific teams were chosen to continue with the next phase of training.
“Now that we’ve refined our process and we’ve made the selections for the two teams we created, we’re going to be focusing more on the instructor mentality,” Mozetta said. “We’re going to have more public speaking classes and expect them to teach what they’ve learned so far.”
Currently, the intent behind the 15th MEU’s FET is for subject matter expert exchange, meaning they’re looking more to be a liaison partner and teach instead of doing more patrolling and infantry-type work as seen with previous FETs.
“It’s important for these Marines to have the confidence and know their subject matter enough to teach it,” Mozetta said. “We want to set the example of; this is how females handle themselves, how professional they are, and how hard they train.”
The FET continues to train hard aboard the Essex to ensure the team members are confident and competent in everything they do. This will allow the 15th MEU the ability to continue being a presence in certain parts of the world and create bonds on a whole other level that isn’t possible with just males.