Dan Doughty's Reviews > Love My Rifle More than You: Young and Female in the U.S. Army

Love My Rifle More than You by Kayla Williams
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's review
Feb 10, 2012

liked it

I read this book because I served on the same sort of linguistic team as the author, however I never was in a combat zone. The author makes some fine points but also doesn't try to explain some of the reasons why the sexism happens at times.

One thing that she absolutely captures accurately is the haphazard manner in which linguists are used by the Army. Units are not trained together in the United States and then deployed together as a well oiled team instead they are deployed in ones and twos to teams that are already in combat. Additionally, linguists may be deployed to a combat zone and to a listening post yet not have the language skills needed for that listening post. Russian linguists are set alongside Korean and Persian Farsi linguists, which means that it is harder on the linguists who actually know the language in that theater of combat.

Even worse, since people with security clearances are always in demand, linguists frequently get deployed to do jobs that they are never trained in, like the author when she was faced with handling prisoners. Unfortunately linguists are also paid so little compared to what they can earn outside the military that the majority who move up in ranks tends to be a shabby lot with poor leadership skills. I don't mean to say that they are well paid as linguists after they leave, only that anyone who can learn a language in a year to 18 months is so intelligent and persistent that they can succeed in anything they choose to pursue.

The author portrays all these realities very starkly, but not quite as angrily as I have written above. Instead, most of her anger is directed at her peers who definitely sexually harass her. The harassment is similar to things that I saw during my service and don't sound overblown. It is an unfortunate truth that women are given lower physical standards to pass and they are not expected to do as much physical labor in the Army.

While she was a linguist, she was also a tactical linguist in the Army and that means loading and unloading very heavy items like camouflage netting, ammo cans, machine guns, etc. Most of the women in my units were never capable of performing some of the tasks associated with their jobs. This leads to a situation where very young men, mostly 20-23, treat women very poorly and unfairly. I'm not trying to defend what the guys did, it was shitty, but I am hoping to shed some light that the author didn't on why her peers might have done such crappy things.

The writing is sort of choppy and unfocused with no real attempt to develop a strong narrative element, but that is what you probably should expect from a diary of a real person not a novel. The author misses a few opportunities to explain some things or see other's points of view.

I recommend this book to anyone who is considering joining the Army as a linguist as it accurately describes what your job may be like and it will probably discourage you from signing up. I don't regret my years as an Army linguist but had I known what it really would be like, I probably would have chosen a different job or a different military branch, like the Air Force.
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05/06 marked as: read

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