Love My Rifle More Than You
While I've read several books written by male soldiers or embedded journalists, all of which offer up a very alpha POV on life in the sandbox, "Love My Rifle More Than You - Young and Female in the US Army ", Kayla Williams memoir of life as a Sgt with the US Army's 101st Airborne Division, is the first published book (as opposed to milblogs by female soldiers and Marines) that I ve read.
A self described ex-punk, vegetarian(thats two things we have in common) Chomsky reading liberal(definately not something we have in common...read Chomsky...can't stand him) she is fluent in Arabic(while Im not fluent...I speak Arabic) she became a terp(interpretor) and was sent to Kuwait in 2003.
Her description of day to day life is very candid: she and members of her unit alleviated boredom by making a game of throwing rocks at one anothers breasts and genitals; being a women proved useful during her interrogation and humilation of Iraqi prisoners in Mosul, where she would flick cigs at Iraqi prisoners, mock a naked mans sexual prowess, and ridicule his genitals; and writes that being a woman in the sandbox is a "desirable commodity"- she endured constant come ons( I can relate to that- its not exclusive to women in the sandbox..trust me!), and that sex between male and female combatants is very common- several soldiers even returned home pregnant- but she also manages to convey the hell of combat and the challenges of dealing with fear, bad weather, brutality, bravery, shitty meals, and periods of numbing boredom; common experiences shared by both male and female soldiers.
In her candor she admits to enjoying the perks of being female in the military while also being humiliated in front of her male brethern...but what I liked most was that while she remains patriotic, she is absolutely scathing in her critisicism of the military's ineptitude and lack of support for the troups....and trust me, she is NOT alone in her criticism. I support our reasons for usurping Shitdam and helping the Iraqi's to create a democratic Iraq but I know from the 100's of conversations Ive had with Marines and Soldiers who have now returned home and can speak frankly, just how terribly mishandled this war has been...and that many of our leaders in the military have proven to be incompetent, inept, and far more concerned about their own careers than the lives of their troups. Part of that comes from fighting this war in a way as to appease the MSM and Liberals....but the problem doesn't begin or end there!
Williams has managed to capture the paradox of the situation in Iraq "We're here to help you..oh and shoot you if we feel its necessary" . This book is bound to rub alot of people the wrong way, including the soldiers still in Iraq as well as the wives/girlfriends of those that were or are now still deployed.
Kayla has no regrets about her time in the Army, she met her fiancee during her deployment, and she makes it clear that as a woman she was capable of holding her own and is critical of anyone, male or female, unable to tough it out!
While there is a growing female presence in the military and not just in support roles but actually fighting side by side with men, Williams book helps to counter the "Private Benjamin" image we are used to rendering and offers up a reality that is far more complex than the Lyndie England/Jessica Lynch images the MSM perpetuates; a reality that recognizes the fact that women are not as strong as men and risk being raped if captured( as Jessica was) , while acknowledging that this is not a deterrent to women who truly want to pursue a career in the military that includes fighting in the trenches with their male counterparts.
Yet if you look at the pic of Kayla Williams on the cover of her book, dressed in gear, sporting shades and holding her gun, it becomes only too easy to transform her and by fiat the "female soldier" into the latest sex symbol.
I can already see who will be cast to play her in the SURE to be made movie of her book!
Update: 10/10/05: Kayla appeared on CNN Saturday nite to promote her book. I found her interview quite interesting. But I want to stress that while she has made mention of the many men that came onto her, (a scenario that is common place on the corporate homefront) in speaking with many deployed men, they have often shared stories of women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan that have very aggresively come onto them.