This chapter examines the Navy’s efforts to attract recruits once it could no longer rely on draft-motivated volunteers. Naval recruiting advertisements during the AVF have promised the travel and adventure of a seagoing life, mental and physical challenges, and career advancement and skills training. The Navy has responded to the challenge of recruiting a volunteer force by focusing its efforts almost exclusively on young men. While recruiting materials have made token references to female sailors, the Navy presents itself as a male world where women mainly represent the pleasures of travel and shore leave.
Navy recruiting pitches have made use of various markers of masculinity. The Navy has relied on specifically militarized forms of masculinity (and interestingly, it has made this appeal to what could be considered traditional warrior masculinity recently in its history, showing that its commitment to overt masculinity isn’t weakening), as well as forms that have conventionally been linked to the sailor’s life, with its physical demands and privations and opportunities for exciting experiences. But the Navy has also looked to the civilian world repeatedly over the course of the AVF, tapping into the evolving masculine forms of the economic sphere, with offers of good job skills giving way to promises of professional accomplishment and technical prowess.
The analysis in this chapter is based on sixty-four print advertisements published by the Navy between 1970 and 2003, eighteen television commercials that aired between 1980 and 2003, and two different incarnations of the Navy’s recruiting Web site. After a brief discussion of Navy culture, this chapter presents an analysis of Navy recruiting materials from the first two decades of the all-volunteer force, pauses to consider the role of women in recruitment materials and provide some background on women’s participation in the Navy, and then continues with analysis of recruiting materials in the 1990s and early 2000s.