Women Marines who build trust with Afghans react to shooting rampage

Lt. Col. Julie Nethercot, USMC

A group of women Marines is reacting strongly to developments in the wake of the shooting rampage in Afghanistan.

The engagement team reaches out to Afghan women to help build cooperation and security.

These Marines have spent a lot of time trying to build relationships and trust with the Afghan people, and they say hearing news like that makes them absolutely sick.

It's been a rough few weeks for the mission in Afghanistan.

The accidental burning of Qurans by U.S. servicemen sparked outrage and violence.

Then the news last weekend that an Army soldier reportedly shot and killed 16 villagers, including nine children.

Tonight at a Women's History Month event at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle, ABC7 talked to Marines like Lt. Col. Julie Nethercot, who was a battalion commander in Afghanistan.

She says she's devastated over the loss of innocent life and the loss of trust. "It's extremely upsetting," she says. "I really can't even begin to put words to it."

"That society's based on relationships and trust, so it's going to take some time to rebuild and get that back at some level," Nethercot says.

Captain Victoria Sherwood's job was to engage with Afghan women.

"Literally I had Afghan women clutching my hands and calling me sister, and thanking me for everything I was doing, and say it made them proud as women to see me in the capacity I was in," says Sherwood.

The thought of so much trustbuilding being dealt such a blow by one rogue soldier makes these women sick. But they don't think all is lost.

"I think it really depends on where you are in the country and your relationship with that village elder or that particular population as to whether or not they see that as an isolated incident by one soldier or if it totally clouds their perception of the U.S. Presence in Afghanistan."

In another sign the military has a lot of work to do, the President of Afghanistan is now saying he wants NATO troops to pull out of rural areas and instead stay at their bases.