While some military watchers have claimed that all of the services, aside from the Marines, have abandoned masculinity in their recruiting appeals, this study clearly shows that this is not the case. At the inception of the all-volunteer force (AVF), the military’s ability to deploy masculinity as a recruiting tool was constrained because dominant conceptions of masculinity were being disrupted by various social, economic, and political changes in American culture; because traditional military forms of masculinity were discredited by both the Vietnam War and the women’s movement; and because women were becoming a more important source of military manpower. However, while these challenges to masculinity made the links between military service and masculinity more complex, the result was not the neutering of military service in recruiting appeals but the alteration of military masculinities. The military branches reacted to the changes in the larger culture and presented several versions of masculinity, including both transformed models that are gaining dominance in the civilian sector and traditional warrior forms that can appeal to those who are threatened by the changes and looking for a refuge.
The Marine Corps is the branch that fully depends on a traditional masculine form. It has consistently depicted a warrior masculinity, with hard young men portrayed in martial contexts, either in a combat situation or on ceremonial display. The Marines inform potential recruits that they’ll need to prove their worth before being accepted into the brotherhood, in effect offering them a rite of passage into manhood. Based on their structure and personnel needs, the Marines need to use only one version of masculinity in their appeals. The Marines can use the promise of a warrior masculinity to lure young men who want to spend a few years doing combat-oriented jobs, and they don’t need to emphasize benefits or job training as would probably be necessary to recruit people who would make a longer commitment and do more technical