"This book is about America's most unknown soldiers-enlisted women in the Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marines." Focusing on the decade from 1972 to 1982, Judith Stiehm uses personal narratives, interviews, policy statements, and other material to explore the experience of American women in the military-their reasons for enlisting, their roles, their self-image, and the way they are viewed by civilians. Although there are now more than 200,000 women in uniform, Stiehm asks why the policies concerning enlisted women "so often appear to fly in the face of both logic and evidence." Her analysis of the effects of change in military policy on women of different ranks and ages reveals how certain functional myths (e.g., "war is manly") are challenged by the presence of women. The result has been an uneasy accommodation. Arms and the Enlisted Woman includes a vivid first-person account by a female veteran of one woman's experience in the Air Force. Honorably discharged as a Staff Sergeant after six years of working as an airplane mechanic, this woman describes the struggle to be taken seriously and treated equally, and to excel in a non-traditional field. She also relates the joys of seeing a job well done and being part of a cohesive team. Her mixed reaction to her military career epitomizes the difficulty with which enlisted women have been assimilated. Stiehm also analyzes the rapidly shifting military policies concerning women as well as the reasons for certain erroneous but persistent beliefs about them, and remarks, "One thing seems to be certain. To the professional military the enlisted woman is a raw nerve."
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