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Women exchange soldier skills

LOURDES, El Salvador -- New Hampshire Air National Guard security force members continued the second day of a three day visit with female members of the Salvadorian armed forces with an exchange of skills used during patrols and searches.

Female Salvadoran soldiers are an increasing presence in security patrols in El Salvador, supporting the National Police in the search for drug trafficking. Salvadoran culture does not support physical contact between male soldiers and female suspects. Females are vital to ensure suspected female traffickers are thoroughly searched.

"I am so impressed by the professionalism and skills of these soldiers," stated Airman 1st Class Devin Godfrey of the 157th Security Force Squadron. "The Salvadoran military does not have the resources we have, but the techniques they use are just as effective as ours."

During the exchange, Private Marily Rodriguez Mendoza of the Salvadoran army demonstrated a technique for controlling a suspect during a search without the use of handcuffs.

"The compliance and control technique made me completely immobile and off balance," stated Sr. Airman Autumn Clarke. "She had full control of me and I couldn't resist. I was shocked that could be done without the use of handcuffs."

The New Hampshire Air Guard demonstrated defensive rifle and weapons retention drills. Their Salvadoran counterparts appreciated the exposure to new skills.

"We don't want to resort to the use of weapons during patrols," stated Private Mendoza. "We receive on the job training in physical defense and apprehension, but do not have the opportunity to spend time practicing skills in this type of setting. This will help us for sure."

The 31 Salvadoran participants travelled from around the country to attend the event at the Ceopaz military base. It was a rare opportunity for the women to practice skills together. Females make up only 5% of the Salvadoran military.

"There are only 16 women in the entire Salvadoran air force," explained 1st Lt. Maria Elena Mendoza, the first fixed wing pilot in the Salvadoran military. "Unlike the army, we do not have female enlisted. I do not work often with other women. Without this event, I would never have the opportunity to work with women from the other Salvadoran armed forces."

For the female airmen of the 157th Air Refueling Wing, the opportunity to attend the event is an honor.

"These women are making history in their country, and we get to be a part of it," stated Sr. Airman Clarke. "We are working with the first female pilots in the Salvadoran air force, and a graduate of the first Salvadoran military college class to admit women. These women are so humble; they don't realize how special they are."
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