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Fort Jackson soldier working with families in Afghanistan

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Capt. Sophie Hilaire (Source: 1st Lt. Scott Brown) Capt. Sophie Hilaire (Source: 1st Lt. Scott Brown)
Capt. Sophie Hilaire (Source: 1st Lt. Scott Brown) Capt. Sophie Hilaire (Source: 1st Lt. Scott Brown)
Capt. Sophie Hilaire (Source: 1st Lt. Scott Brown) Capt. Sophie Hilaire (Source: 1st Lt. Scott Brown)
Capt. Sophie Hilaire (Source: 1st Lt. Scott Brown) Capt. Sophie Hilaire (Source: 1st Lt. Scott Brown)
Capt. Sophie Hilaire with her sister (Source: 1st Lt. Scott Brown) Capt. Sophie Hilaire with her sister (Source: 1st Lt. Scott Brown)

AFGHANISTAN (WIS) - A Fort Jackson soldier recognized for her physical fitness is spending her first deployment to Afghanistan working with the nation's women and children. If her mission goes well, she will bring a new title and badge when she returns home.

 Capt. Sophie Hilaire is a logistics officer with a Provincial Reconstruction Team. She says that's her day job.  When Hilaire deployed, she was a first lieutenant.

 "By night I go out on raids with our brigade's targeting platoon, who detain confirmed enemies within the region," said Hilaire via e-mail.

 "My role is to search and question the women and children with an interpreter, since they hold a great deal of intelligence that the male soldiers are not allowed to gather due to cultural sensitivity," she said.

Those raids are dangerous.  Hilaire earned the Combat Action Badge, which is awarded to non-infantry soldiers who are engaged by or engage the enemy.  Hilaire says it's a rare award for a female.  In Hilaire's case, she said she was engaged by the enemy.

 The West Point graduate and fitness guru volunteered for the mission in Afghanistan in 2012. When she arrived in the war-torn country, she met her sister, who is also a graduate of West Point and stationed in Afghanistan.

 "It's been highly rewarding and a very fascinating way to view Afghanistan," she said. "Climbing foreboding mountains at night and entering strangers' homes--it's about as intimate yet intrusive as one can get. But the Afghans have hospitality ingrained within them.  I've been offered chai, dresses, and even invited to a wedding."

The US withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan means Hilaire's deployment was shorter than expected.  Her team is the last in the region, but her job as logistics officer means she has to get 11 years' worth of army equipment and vehicles back home.

"I've seen evil here," she said.  "But also there is hope."

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