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Face of Defense: Female Advisor Breaks Through Barriers in Afghanistan

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Army Master Sgt. Janet Bretado of the California National Guard is one of two female advisors from the 40th Infantry Division serving as part of Train, Advise and Assist Command South here.

“A lot of advising efforts derived from having the passion to help,” the Bellflower, California, native said. “I had that passion from my family upbringing and still do to this day.”

The command, composed of soldiers from the California National Guard’s 40th Infantry Division, and 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team of the 4th Infantry Division, is focused on training and assisting Afghan security forces and supporting counterterrorism operations.

“I am part of the [military advisory team] for TAAC South,” Bretado said. “I advise the logistics section for 205th Afghan National Army Corps.”

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As an automated logistical specialist for the past 13 years, Bretado was the perfect candidate for the team.

Experienced Logistics NCO

“During my past two deployments, back in 2008 and 2010, I was the supply support activity noncommissioned officer in charge,” she said. “I was able to use my experience from those deployments to help my counterparts here with their forward support depot, which is similar to our SSA.”

To fully assist her counterparts, Bretado said, she had to instruct them on a logistician’s duties and responsibilities.

“It was hard for them to understand that we don’t just deal with food and clothing, but with every class commodity — ammo, transportation, weapons,” Bretado said. “Logistics is the heart of everything. You can’t help soldiers in the fight if you don’t have the correct equipment on hand.”

Bretado began her mentorship by incorporating systems used by the supply support activity into the 205th Corps’ forward support depot.

“[The Afghans] use what we call a ‘push system,’” she said. “The central supply depot in Kabul sends items to the 205th FSD, Bretado explained. The FSD will sometimes receive equipment and supplies that they need, but most times they won’t, she said, causing them to store excess items and continue ordering more supplies or equipment.

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The “pull system” that Bretado integrated into the Afghan forward support depot ensures that units receive the requested supplies and equipment as needed and that any excess will be sent back for use by other units.

“When I first got here, I learned that the FSD had over 1,500 pairs of size 5 boots just stored here, because most of their soldiers wear size 7,” Bretado said. “We worked shoulder to shoulder, completed the correct paperwork and sent all the equipment back to be used for women coming into the Afghan army or police. We then used the pull system to get them the correct-sized boots.”

Although the FSD is only a small portion of what Bretado is helping to improve, she said, her Afghan counterparts are very receptive of all her recommendations.

“From the first moment I walked in, … they have been very welcoming,” she said. “They don’t see me for my gender. They see me as a professional soldier trying to help.”

With only a few short months left before her to return to the United States and her family, her counterparts are saddened to see her go.

‘She Has Done a Great Job Helping Us’

“She has done a great job helping us,” said Afghan army Sgt. Maj. Abdul Rawof Klafgani, logistics sergeant major, 205th ANA Corps. “She is a [competent] logistician and is always available when we need to reach out to her. We wish her happiness as she gets ready to go back home to her family.”

Through constant communication and a common goal to improve the Afghan army, relationships have evolved to more than just partnerships, Bretado said.

“It has grown into a friendship, sharing stories and pictures,” she added. “We put work aside and talk about our families, hobbies or what is going on in our lives. It’s important to know each other in order to help each other.”

Bretado said she’s very happy to have had the opportunity to serve in Afghanistan.

“It’s amazing to see [our allies] grow,” she said. “If you have the knowledge and experience to help, don’t let your gender stop you.”

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