May 4, 2015 | Quote
The ISIS-Fighting, Female Army Vet And Mother Of Three: ‘I Cried On The Way To The Airport’
Last summer, the Islamic State overran the Iraqi military and swept through parts of Iraq and Syria, claiming territory and terrorizing religious and ethnic minorities under its control. During this period, Jay began researching Kurdistan and affiliated support groups.
Iraq’s Kurdish majority is located in country’s semi-autonomous, northern region. Although Jay doesn’t want to disclose her location, an earlier Facebook post suggests she is in this area. She was not altogether clear with The DCNF about how exactly she is communicating with locals — she did not mention having an interpreter — but says she is slowly learning Kurdish.
Another American in northern Iraq is helping civilians defend against the Islamic State. Matthew VanDyke trained a Christian militia to protect the community from jihadis. Although VanDyke’s motivations were tethered to protecting Iraq’s ancient Christian communities, Jay has different reasons.
“No, to me this has nothing to do with religion,” said Jay. “I am a Christian but I’m protecting humanity. No matter the race or religion.”
When asked about the practical details of how she joined Kurdish forces, Jay demurred. “I sought them out. Made the right connections and verified they were reliable.”
The Kurdish Peshmerga force mainly fights the Islamic State in Iraq, although it battled the terror group for control of the Syria-Turkey border town of Kobani. The Peshmerga is under the control of the Kurdish Regional Government or KRG. The Kurdish YPG, also known as the People’s Protection Units, fights Islamic State militants in Syria.
The relationship between the two Kurdish forces is similar to that between the U.S. and Canadian militaries. Although separate entities, the Peshmerga and YPG share core values, according to Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, an expert at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
Jordan Matson, another U.S. Army veteran, joined the YPG last year. Although dozens of Westerners are reportedly fighting with Kurdish forces against the Islamic State, Jay says she’s the only foreign fighter at her location, either male or female.
The role of foreigners in Kurdish ranks is unclear, one American recruit interviewed by The Daily Beast claiming they are public relations props rather than engaged in actual combat. “Just because they aren’t in the front lines, doesn’t mean they aren’t important,” Gartenstein-Ross said. Pointing out that the U.S. Army generally has about four personnel in logistics and support for every combat fighter, Gartenstein-Ross said that Kurdish forces similarly have a need for personnel in logistics and support roles.
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