• Athena Ives

Lioness Warriors

Until 2013, women were not allowed to serve in ground combat units, but due to the necessity for women in these units, the military called upon brave women to volunteer to be attached to these units. Due to cultural restrictions, the US forces were fighting half-blind and females were needed in these ground combat units to search the women for bombs, weapons and other contraband. The brave women that volunteered for these dangerous missions, often with little to no training, were given the title Lioness. They also had another team of all women called the Female Engagement Teams (FET).

During the push into Iraq, the Marine Corps and Army discovered an obstacle, they couldn't search or speak to the local women. The insurgents took advantage of these and began hiding weapons and contraband with the women. Another disadvantage was not having access to the intel that these women often held. Because women were banned by law from serving in ground combat units, they asked women to volunteer to serve as attachments. They were placed in all male units with men they had never met, some with little to no training.

In 2008, I was called upon to serve my country and volunteered to be one of the Lioness warriors heading to Iraq. Before deploying, I took part in a 48-hour special effects operation with an infantry unit. During this training operation, I assisted with raids, pop-up checkpoints, and searching techniques. When I arrived to Fallujah, I was attached to whatever unit needed assistance, and was leaving the wire at least 3 times a week. My first mission, our convoy was hit by an IED where I received a concussion and we had several casualties. I never informed my command due to fear of being taken off of the mission. My first patrol, I was told to "stay behind Doc and don't die."

I worked at the entry checkpoints where I searched all of the women and children coming into the city. I had a female interpreter with me as well as several local women that were assisting with protecting their country from insurgents trying to smuggle in weapons, contraband and intel into the city. I also assisted with patrols, raids, and security at town council meetings and medical clinics. Many of us had significant bounties on our heads due to the hatred men had for the women military infidels. Similar to women warriors throughout history, many of us were provided little training, made fun of, and sexually harassed, and instead of being recognized for our sacrifices, we were called liars about serving in combat.