Christian Science Monitor publishes photos of the 1-5 Female Engagement Team

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The Christian Science Monitor published 19 of my photos of soldiers of the Female Engagement Team attached to the 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment in an online gallery. Check out the images and the amazing work these women do at this link: A two-page photo essay will run in the May 7 edition of the international newspaper.

For you camera buffs and photo fans, you might like to know I made all these images with a Canon Elph point-and-shoot camera.

I couldn’t have accomplished this project without a lot of support from a lot of people. First, the women attached to the 1-5 FET team: Spc. Valerie Cronkhite, Spc. Malecia James, Pfc. Jamie Sterna, Pvt. Liliana Nunez, language assistant Mary and Sgt. 1st Class Miriam Lopez. They let me follow them on patrol, during PT and in their tents and during their downtime. LTC Brian Payne, battalion commander, brigade PAO Maj. David Mattox, battalion PAO Anthony Formica helped me get the access I needed to do the project. The soldiers of Bravo and Charlie Companies had my back on patrol.

When I was critically ill and hospitalized in Kuwait, CSM Director of Photography Alfredo Sosa extended my deadline and wished me a speedy recovery.

I completed the project from my hospital bed.  I couldn’t have done it with the assistance of Ali and Sarah. Ali got me a laptop and wi-fi so I could work in the hospital. Sarah sent the original email to Alfredo informing him of my situation; I was too out of it to do it. She came to visit me every one of my 19 days in the hospital and encouraged me to finish the project. Leah and Selma offered hugs and praise.

My parents checked on me every day. And so many people offered love and prayers. I truly could not have completed this project without all the love and support of so many.

I marvel at these young women who walk with the infantrymen and committed their time in the Army to making a difference and pushing the boundaries of what’s possible for women in the military.

It was an honor to walk in their footsteps.

Female Engagement Team: carrying its weight

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The soldiers of the Female Engagement Team pose for a fun group portrait on a Stryker at their home base, Shoja, in Kandahar Province in Afghanistan, Friday, Jan. 6, 2012. The soldiers are attached to the 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment. From left: Spc. Valerie Cronkhite, Spc. Melicia James, Mary, Pfc. Jamie Sterna, 1st Sgt. Miriam Lopez and Pvt. Lilian Nunez. Copyright 2012 Cheryl Hatch

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner published the fourth in a series of four story/photo packages JR Ancheta and I produced in Afghanistan. I’m proud of the story…it’s generated a litany of comments, both positive and negative.

There area a few people–men and women–who wrote that women have no business in combat. There were a couple of people who wrote that it was sexist of me to include her height and weight. I saw that one coming a mile away. I included her height and weight because it makes a strong and relevant point in the story. If I needed to include a guy’s height and weight to make a point, I’d do it.

Spc. Valerie Cronkhite, left, and Pfc. Jamie Sterna have a drink as they wait for the morning ramp briefing before the start of a mission with 3rd Platoon, Bravo Co. on Wed., Jan. 4, 2012. Cronkhite has a Coke; Sterna stays loyal to Pit Bull. Both women are members of the Female Engagement Team attached to the 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment of the 1/23th Stryker Brigade Combat Team. Copyright 2012 Cheryl Hatch

I had been interested in this story since I first heard about the program from Public Affairs Officer Maj. David Mattox at Fort Wainwright, Ak., last year when I was the Snedden Chair at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. I met Spc. Valerie Cronkhite when we followed the 1/25 Stryker Brigade Combat Team to Fort Irwin, Calif. and the Mojave Desert for their final training before deploying to Afghanistan in April 2011.

I was sorely disappointed we didn’t have the chance to spend time with the FET soldiers during NTC. I was determined to do the story when JR and I embedded.

Here’s the link to the story:–children?instance=home_lead_story

And here’s to our sisters!