Here is a cool article..... there are some mistakes as it always happens with the press but it is an interesting story...
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — Maj. Eleanor Taylor caused quite a stir when she deployed to a remote outpost deep in the Taliban heartland of western Kandahar last spring.
When the 34-year-old soldier from Antigonish, N.S., took off her blast goggles and helmet, Afghan elders in Panjwaii were taken aback, meeting the first woman to command a Canadian infantry company in combat. "I would be disingenuous if I did not acknowledge that they were often very surprised," Taylor said during an exclusive interview with Postmedia News at the end of her seven-month tour. "There was shock on their faces and they would exchange a couple of words among themselves. I know the word for women in Pushto and I heard that word." But these rural Pushtoons from what may be the most conservative Islamic society in the world were always respectful as well as curious, as were the soldiers from two Afghan army companies her unit was partnered with, so it turned out "not to be a handicap at all."
"I honestly think that notion that Afghan men won't deal with western women is a myth. Or that has been my experience, anyway," the commander of Charles Company said.
"Certainly if an Afghan woman were to come and ask them the things that I asked of them, they would receive an entirely different response. But as a western woman, they see me as foreign and if they hold prejudice towards women, and I certainly suspect some may, they don't show it. In fact, I have found they have been more open with me — certainly much more than I expected — than with some of my male counterparts."
Locals provided Taylor with a logical, if slightly bizarre explanation for their solicitous behaviour. "I was told by them that they believe that I am easy to work with because I am a woman and they know that women are compassionate and here for peace, whereas they think that the men are here to fight," she said before adding, "of course, I am also here to fight, but when I speak with the locals, they don't need to know that."
One of Taylor's regrets is that she had few chances to speak with Afghan women because whenever her soldiers entered a village the women all disappeared into their family compounds. Once, spotting several women inside the door of a mud-walled home, she told them who she was and that she would like to meet them.
"I went in alone and chatted with them and it was great. It was very enjoyable. They were very surprised and very keen to talk and very interested in the fact that I was a woman soldier." This being Afghanistan, Taylor's male interpreter translated from the other side of the curtain. "It's crazy. It's hard to understand," she said of such rigidly enforced segregation.
Thinking very much like the career soldier she has been since she attended Royal Military College in Kingston, Ont., as a teenager, Taylor added, "There is a great deal of intelligence that can be gained from half the population. That is the bottom line."
During her deployment, Taylor led a beefed-up fighting company of about 250 soldiers, when the gunners, engineers, forward air controllers and medics were factored in. At no time were more than eight of them women, and Taylor, who is a qualified paratrooper, was one of only two women trained as an infanteer, the other a master corporal.
Charles Company, the Royal Canadian Regiment, had an arduous, dangerous tour in Sperwan Ghar District, particularly in the first few months, which coincided with the height of the fighting season. Four days after Taylor arrived from her base at Petawawa, Ont., an engineer attached to the outgoing Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry battle group was killed by an improvised explosive device.
"That was a tragic day," said Taylor, who was not then in command. "He was a hugely respected man and it shook everybody. It made us acutely aware of the dangers we were facing."
Four of Taylor's own troops suffered very serious injuries over the next few weeks. She had her own "close call" when a Taliban mortar round hit the reinforced roof of her company's command post in July, exploding about one metre from her head.
"I was surprised that they were that accurate," she said. "They were good. They had us accurately bracketed.
"We got them later. Did you know that?" she asked this reporter, who had also been close to that exploding mortar shell. "It was a day we learned a lot from. From that, we were able to establish mechanisms that ensured that we were able to rapidly produce counter-battery fire." The soldiers in Taylor's company had all been exposed to direct fire, she said. But the most nerve-racking moments were when they came across IEDs while out on patrol because "you always think, 'What if we had found it a different way?'" meaning what if the IEDs had found them by exploding.
Soldiering in Sperwan Gar is not easy. It is a bleak, hardscrabble land occasionally softened by irrigated fields of grapes, wheat and poppies. The temperature range can be extreme, reaching into the high 50s during summer and dropping well below freezing at night during winter.
"The troops performed marvellously," Taylor said. "I learned that they will do everything that is asked of them. They have an undying sense of humour that keeps us all going and they will do anything for each other. I knew this before, but they are incredibly perceptive and intelligent."
Of her own time in Panjwaii, the major said "I don't think anything can match what I have done here. I have been able to work with troops and young officers who have been truly exceptional, and directly with Afghans and a huge host of enablers from other trades to achieve a tactical mission. It was been tremendously rewarding professionally. I really don't think there is another job like that in the (Canadian Forces)."
Everyone from Taylor's company is now at Kandahar Airfield or back in Canada. They have been replaced by a battle group from the Royal 22nd Regiment — the Van Doo.
"I think we definitely made some progress," Taylor said.
Taylor, who was so reluctant to speak for the record that it took months to arrange to sit down with her, made it plain that she didn't want attention for being a woman when there were male company commanders doing similar jobs, and it was her soldiers and not she who had been doing the fighting.
"I don't really consider it relevant," she said of her sex. "The fewer people in my organization think about it, the better."
It has now been several decades since Canada opened all combat-arms trades to women, but there are still only a handful of women in such jobs. This is especially true of the infantry, which is generally regarded as the toughest soldiering task there is. The U.S. will still not allow women to join combat arms, although those lines have blurred somewhat during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The major winced uncomfortably when told that many she's served with in Kandahar, as well as others in the army, think she'll become the first woman to run an infantry battalion, and be considered for even higher commands.
A self-proclaimed army 'lifer,' she is waiting to find out if she has been selected for a staff course in Toronto that could put her on track to become a battalion commander. If not selected, she will likely take a French-language course in Ottawa, where she has siblings.
Taylor's top priority right now is to regain some balance in her life. Canada's most successful female warrior confided that she and her husband, who is a staff officer, have other plans beyond the military.
"We're looking forward to starting a family."
Read more: http://www.canada.com/Charles+Company+commander+causes+stir+Afghanistan/3961038/story.html#ixzz1AOzSqqFm