Women in the U.S. Armed Forces by Darlene M. Iskra

Click on cover image to purchase a copy

Click on cover image to purchase a copy

MWSA Review

Darlene M. Iskra's book is a tribute to women warriors past and present who served faithfully in the United States armed forces. Retired Commander Iskra was one of the first women Navy divers and the first woman to command a ship in the US Navy (USS Opportune.) 
The author takes the reader on a one hundred year military journey back in time and chronologically moves the reader forward to our present day all volunteer military. Chapters such as "Rescinding the Combat Exclusion Laws", "Gender, Sexuality and Harassment" as well as "Balancing Life in the Military" provide the reader with a powerful overview as to the sacrifices made and abuses suffered by women who serve our country to protect and preserve our freedoms. 
The hardships women face in our male dominated armed forces, which inequalities still exist today, is explored in detail. Commander Iskra emphasizes that the transition of our military from a culture of masculinity to an integrated multi-gendered organization has been a long time in the works, however has yet to come to full fruition.   
Women's rights and equality as partners in our armed forces is the basic theme of the text. The author provides a century of factual documentation highlighting that women have served with distinction as well as valor and deserve no less opportunities than our male warriors. The author reminds us that within the last sixty years women serving in our armed forces has increased from 2% to 15%.  See latest data on women in the military at http://www.womensmemorial.org/PDFs/StatsonWIM.pdf
The book is a call for action. The text's epilogue explores four areas which need immediate attention by our congress and military leaders. Sexual harassment should not be tolerated and the sexual assault of woman must stop. Women in combat roles should be afforded the same opportunities, training and tools as our men. Women should be allowed to serve on submarines as equals to their male counter parts and finally women in our military should have the ability to lead normal social lives as caring and supportive wives and mothers. Our country does this for men and there is no reason not to accommodate women.
In summation this is an excellent work of literary merit which every American should read, in particular our law makers and military leaders. Packed with historical fact the text reminds us of the tremendous contributions and sacrifices women have made to our military history. Regardless of the machismo in our military and its tail-hook party mentality, women have earned the right to serve our country beside men as equals with respect and dignity. To do less sullies our constitution.   

Reviewed by: Paul Decker (2011)

Author's Synopsis

Women in the United States Armed Forces: A Guide to the Issues covers over a century of accomplishments of military women, from the Civil War to the current wars in the Middle East. Readers will learn, for example, that during World War II, 565 women in the Women’s Army Corps stationed in the Pacific theater received combat decorations, proving that women had the courage, strength, and stamina to perform in a combat environment. They will also learn that, perhaps surprisingly, it wasn’t until the mid- to late 1970s that women had their first opportunities to serve at sea and as aviators (crew as well as pilots), albeit on noncombatant ships and aircraft. The book’s final four chapters discuss the issues that continue to plague women in the military, including sexual harassment, noting that women’s performance in America’s two-front wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have made a positive difference in attitudes. The handbook closes with an epilogue that is at once a summary of the issues and a call for action.