Female Marines Reach Out to Afghan Women

Marine Capt. Stacy Blackburn-Hoelscher and her all-female team in the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade have a unique mission: Reaching out to the women of Afghanistan.

"We're the first ever that's actually been able to tap into that population," Blackburn-Hoelscher told CBS News Correspondent Mandy Clark. "This culture is pretty sensitive about men talking to their women."

CBSNews.com Special Report: Afghanistan

Even their interpreters are women. The Marines wear headscarves as a sign of respect. Their efforts have been rewarded. Afghan women have proved to be good intelligence sources, providing tips on weapons caches and hidden bombs. They're also more open to the military's humanitarian side, which helps stabilize the region with programs that promote health, hygiene and education.

"I think the best tool that I can ever approach them with is ears to listen to what they have to say," Blackburn-Hoelscher told Clark.

It's a tool she talks about with the Marines she trains, telling one group to "always ask who else, what else and why, how do you know that?"

They role-play how to communicate with Afghans, focusing not only on how to ask questions, but also how to act.

"I want you to be natural," Blackburn-Hoelscher told her Marines. "They are already freaked out because you look like Robocop."

The team was set up in July with just more than 40 female Marines, but in just six months it has already more than doubled in size. It's seen as key to the counterinsurgency strategy here.

Winning hearts and minds has been a challenge here; Afghan women may be key in helping forge a path to peace.