Beyond The Blue Code
Author: Miette Walker
Publisher: iUniverse (2008)
Binding: Paperback, 296 pages
In her sequel to Crossing the Blue Code, Miette Walker continues her powerful and poignant personal story sharing her experiences in the Air Force and her challenging and often frustrating pursuit to "Aim High".
Airman Walker begins the second part of her memoir just as she returns to Dyess from Panama, wondering how in just three months she has somehow transformed from a trusting person to someone who questions everything, including her own emotions. In an honest, self-disclosing style, Walker explores the doubts, fears, and perplexities related to her experiences trying to operate daily in a largely male world rife with discrimination and harassment. Soon Walker is deployed to Saudi Arabia where her misery escalates dramatically. Despite facing seemingly relentless tribulations, Walker doesn't surrender her belief to always do what's right, even if she must sacrifice personally. Through it all, her dog Killer is the only one who keeps her sane and Walker's last mission is to ensure that both she and Killer come home alive, not in body bags.
Beyond The Blue Code provides an introspective and eye-opening look into a world that few survive unscarred.
Beyond the Blue Code is the second volume in Miette Walker's memoir about her service in the Air Force during the first Gulf War era. Although she described her struggles in a flight that was notoriously hostile to military women in her first volume, book two takes the reader beyond the author's early training and into her frustrating attempts to cope with a largely male society that didn't want her. A bit of a loner by nature, the author separated herself both consciously and unconsciously from the people around her. While not unfriendly, she was wounded by rumors. Disapproving of the differing moral and social perspectives of others -- and feeling betrayed, she often chose her own company. These problems magnified as she found herself on the uncomfortable, unfortunate side of group think fostered by a military structure designed around single gender unit cohesiveness. Being treated differently by biased noncoms and officers not only enraged the author, but put her in a position where her fellow airmen never really accepted her as part of the team. Not only was this situation frustrating and humiliating for Ms. Walker, it became dangerous when she was deployed to Saudi Arabia where she became an even tinier minority. This book describes the emotional and physical toll being in such a position took on her.
Ms. Walker's story of intimidation, harassment, beatings, rape, and attempted murder resonate with anyone who finds him or herself a symbol of a hated minority. Blacks, homosexuals, and other groups face such hostility with alarming regularity. Even as American society tries to address hate related crimes, the very nature of the aggression inhibits reporting. However, Military structure focuses on the good of the whole, rather than the rights of the few and many people trying to serve their country have found themselves victims of the majority with little or no recourse. As Ms. Walker's story demonstrates, such victimization not only destroys the individual involved, but it impacts the effectiveness of the team and results in the loss of important strategic and tactical resources.
However, Ms.Walker's problems were further exacerbated by her gender -- and her refusal, for legitimate, personal reasons, to participate in team building activities that might have neutralized some of hostility that she experienced. The behavior of her fellow airmen while on TDY reflect that of rebellious little boys who get 'liquored up,' group together, and take out after the weaker kid in a testosterone fueled frenzy. What makes this example so hard to accept, is the fact that Ms. Walker was clearly showing signs of stress and trauma -- and her search for support, justice, and healing within the Air Force was met with punishment. That these symptoms weren't recognized or addressed in the early 90s is discouraging to say the least. It forces all of us to become more aware and more willing to help victims get out of their abusive situations.
Beyond the Blue Code is an unpleasant, distressing book. However, its message should resonate with any number of organizations and the people who are responsible for the welfare of others -- from the military to industry to education to reality TV. The terrorization of individuals by groups or by those in power must be recognized and addressed. Officers, noncoms, teachers, employers, producers must all recognize the damage such behavior does to their organizations as well as to the individuals involved -- including the aggressors. Unfortunately, it's sometimes difficult for the accepted, appreciated, and respected to appreciate the problems of the disenfranchised in time to protect them -- even if they have the best of intentions to do so.
Ms.Walker's books are filled with the minutiae of her misery. The pages bristle with outrage and frustration. They are intended to touch those in charge of addressing such situations. Unfortunately, they will probably only be appreciated by other victims.
Reviewed by: Joyce Faulkner (2010)