Rule 5 Blogging: The British Army

It’s the weekend and time, once again, for THE FIRST STREET JOURNAL’S version of Rule 5 Blogging. Robert Stacy McCain described Rule 5 as putting pictures of pretty women somewhat déshabillé, but, on this site, our Rule 5 Blogging doesn’t put up pictures of Gwyneth Paltrow in her summer clothes, but women, in full military gear, serving their countries in the armed forces. The terribly sexist authors on this site celebrate strong women, women who can take care of themselves and take care of others, women who have been willing to put their lives on the line in some not-so-friendly places, women who truly do have the “We can do it!” attitude.

Ali Baskerville spent six weeks photographing seven Female Engagement Officers (FEO) serving in the British armed forces in Afghanistan. These are not soldiers in combat units, but anyone who thinks that they are not in combat conditions is deluding himself. Click on any picture to enlarge.

In May 2012 The Royal British Legion sponsored photojournalist Alison Baskerville on an embedded position with the British Armed Forces in Afghanistan to develop a body of work exploring the changing roles of women within the Forces. Alison was granted unparalleled access to the British Army’s Female Engagement Officers (FEOs) and the women at the Afghan National Army’s training centre in Kabul. Above, Captain Anna Crossley is a Female Engagement Officer in the Upper Gereshk Valley of Helmand. She is heading out to join soldiers from 3 Rifles as they prepare for a patrol to help Anna gain access into a local compound.
Picture: Alison Baskerville

The FEOs work to build relationships with Afghan women in some of the most dangerous parts of Helmand. As interaction between women and male soldiers is strictly forbidden in these small communities, the FEOs are drawn from female volunteers from across the army who receive specialist cultural and language training to enable them to carry out their role.
Picture: Alison Baskerville

Anna’s language training has helped her to gain access to compounds and the residents are intrigued by her. On many occasions she often pretends to have what she refers to as a ‘Helmand husband’ to help her gain rapport with the women who do not understand the concept of remaining unmarried.
Picture: Alison Baskerville

Patrol bases within Helmand have limited showering facilities which will often consist of a hosepipe in a tent and only one shower for both men and women. A small hand made sign provides the only guard to privacy. The women made that sign themselves; there hadn’t been a previous provision for it.
Picture: Alison Baskerville

A bucket is the only way to keep clothes clean at Forward Operating Base Oulette in the Upper Gereshk Valley in Helmand. It looks like the British women are sharing the same conditions as the men.
Picture: Alison Baskerville

At the end of her tent Jess and the other girls have created their own ‘lounge’. It’s a space where the girls can escape to the very different world of Downton Abbey.
Picture: Alison Baskerville

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