Recruiting a Volunteer Force
The preceding chapters have examined the gendered constructions of service developed by each branch over the course of the all-volunteer force (AVF) and, more specifically, their deployment of various forms of masculinity. This chapter takes up the question of how these constructions and the branches’ attempts to recruit are altered by the context of war fighting. While the U.S. armed forces have been sent into combat many times during the AVF era, until Operation Enduring Freedom (in Afghanistan) and Operation Iraqi Freedom, they were not called on to engage in sustained conflicts. The Iraq and Afghanistan Wars are the U.S. military’s first attempts to fight protracted wars without relying on conscription to fill the ranks. From the American Revolution through the Vietnam conflict, men were drafted when a war couldn’t be successfully waged by volunteers alone. The current1 wars are being fought by a recruited force, and gender is a key component of military recruiting. The rigors of combat supposedly justify warrior masculinity, and war can alter gender roles both in the military and in society at large. The AVF is much more reliant on women’s labor than the military ever was during periods of conscription. Not only do women make up a historically high percentage of the U.S. military but also these wars, like other wars, have expanded women’s roles and, in particular, women’s exposure to and participation in combat. If combat is no longer recognized as the exclusive province of men, the military’s ability to make use of masculinity may be compromised. The questions, then, are how the military branches gender service in wartime recruiting appeals and how their recruiting strategies have or haven’t changed in response to the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts.
The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and the invasion of Afghanistan did not have a perceptible effect on the print advertisements of any of the branches. The Army and Navy had instituted major new advertising campaigns