The Proceedings of the US Naval Institute

Copyright United States Naval Institute Feb 2007
Women In the Line of Fire: What You Should Know About Women in the Military
Erin Solaro. Emeryville, CA: Seal Press, 2006. 344 pp. Notes. $15.99.

This book tells of the increasing participation of American women in combat and sets forth the author’s position that changes must be made to ensure that role is accepted at all societal levels. Early on, she notes the effort is not a celebration of war or an “apologia” for the Iraq war (which she opposes), but an expression of her admiration for martial virtues that are the “common heritage” of men and women.

In the spring of 2004. Solaro traveled to Iraq and Afghanistan as a freelance writer, and was embedded with Army and Marine combat troops and an Air Force unit for two months. Her experiences convinced her that all combat exclusion policies pertaining in women should be dropped-“as a matter of military necessity as well as equality of obligation in citizenship.”

Following Solaro’s largely positive impressions gathered as an embedded journalist, the chapters of Women In the Line of Fire relate the long history of excluding women from military service and, in her view, underplaying their contributions to U.S. war efforts. The controversies over acceptance of women at the service academies, Virginia Military Institute, and the Citadel are presented in detail. Considering the book’s adamant stance, it is somehow refreshing to find the Tailhook affair described as “piggish and idiotic” rather than a case of “criminal sexual assault.”

Regardless of your stance on the subject, this is a useful, attention-gaining study. It is difficult to counter Erin Solaro’s conclusion that the “social experiment” of women’s service in male-only military jobs has proved successful in the crucible of war. It will be especially valuable to military officers and personnel specialists.

[Author Affiliation]

Colonel Gordon W. Keiser, U.S. Marine Corps (Retired)

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