skip to navigation skip to content skip to footer

Danielle Huggins - Canberra

Danielle finished school St Clare’s, Canberra 13 years ago and now the Australian Army Captain is helping young women graduate as officers in the Afghan National Army.

The netball fanatic, who’s played with the Royals at Arawang since she was eight, is part of a team mentoring female instructors at the Afghan National Army Officer Academy as part of Australia’s Operation SLIPPER.

The first intake of Afghan female cadets started their 12-month course in June and on graduation as Lieutenants will likely be employed in administration, medical, logistic or signals roles.

"Unfortunately Afghan Army women who have been in those jobs before weren’t really given much to do," Danielle said.

"The course is conducted to make them credible officers so they can be competent in their areas just like the men."

In her role as a staff mentor, Captain Huggins has seen the new cadets slowly developing.

"Just like any other girls, joining the military is a shock to the system, then you see them slowly take shape as soldiers," she said.

It’s really good to see how they were at the start to how they are at the end of the first term.

"Plus their getting to do something they wouldn’t usually get to do."

Danielle's parents, Sandra and Keith, are no strangers to their daughter deploying with the Army after a previous deployment to Kuwait in 2006 but they still worry about her.

"I think they’re proud of me," she said.

"Obviously they’re concerned and they’re looking forward to me coming home but they think it’s exciting."

Captain Huggins found it was best to build a good relationship from the start.

"Don’t just get straight into work. Ask them about their families, ask them why they joined the Army and use that to develop a friendship with them first," she said.

She said finding out more about their Afghan counterpart’s families was often very easy.

"A lot of them will bring their little children in or little brothers and sisters who need to be looked after that day or who are sick.

"One sergeant even made her six-year-old a little Afghan Army uniform cut down from her old one."

Danielle is due to return to Australia in soon ending a nine-month deployment and is one of about 420 Australian personnel who are based at Kabul and Kandahar, Afghanistan to support the ISAF train, advise and assist mission.