The voices of three women convey the dilemmas faced by many young families in the armed services.
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Invisible WomenJunior Enlisted Army Wives
By Margaret C. Harrell
Rand CorporationCopyright © 2001 Margaret C. Harrell
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PrefaceIn the best of circumstances, military manpower policy is crafted by policymakers with input from military personnel managers, analysts, and military leadership with an in-depth understanding of the life experiences and views of junior enlisted personnel. It is plausible to expect that some policymakers attribute the attitudes and experiences of these young soldiers to particular features, such as youth or lack of advanced education, and thus believe themselves able to empathize with this population group by recalling their own parallel life experiences. However, this approach oversimplifies the life experiences of these families and neglects the reality that most policymakers and professional managers have never experienced the compendium of problems these couples face, such as youth, lack of education, financial difficulties, emotional and physical distance from extended family, and invisibility in a large bureaucracy.
At the center of this book are the personal stories of three junior enlisted spouses, told in their own voices and selected to emphasize the dilemmas numerous enlisted families face. The stories provide insight into the experiences and attitudes of some junior enlisted families. Those who live a military lifestyle-at any pay grade-will find these stories both useful and engaging. Some junior enlisted personnel and their spouses will recognize themselves in these stories, and others in the military community will gain a better understanding of problems they may have seen. Additionally, these insights help provide some human context for official statistics and should be of interest to the military leadership; personnel managers; analysts; and policymakers involved in the recruiting, retention, and management of junior enlisted personnel and their families, as well as to Congress and the media.
These stories were excerpted from a long series of interviews conducted during research for a dissertation that addressed the roles and experiences of Army spouses. This research included 105 recorded and transcribed interviews with military spouses, as well as less formal interviews and discussions with military personnel, spouses, and other individuals in the military community. The author also spoke with numerous other spouses and soldiers during Enlisted Spouses Club meetings, Officers' Spouses Club meetings, visits to Army Community Services facilities, and various other gatherings. This research also included an extensive review of the archives of local military and civilian newspapers.
The dissertation research was supported in part by the University of Virginia's Center for Children, Families, and the Law; the National Science Foundation; RAND; and the Forces and Resources Policy Center of RAND's National Defense Research Institute, a federally funded research and development center sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, the Unified Commands, and the defense agencies. While the research was not part of a RAND project and was not funded through the Department of Defense, the Army officially acknowledged it and enabled it to occur. At each of the research locations, the author was formally acknowledged by the local military leadership and was approved for interviews and discussions with military personnel, civilian Department of Defense employees, and military dependents. While the research was not part of a RAND project and was not funded through the Department of Defense, the Army facilitated the interviews and discussions with military personnel, civilian Department of Defense employees, and military dependents.
Excerpted from Invisible Women by Margaret C. Harrell Copyright © 2001 by Margaret C. Harrell. Excerpted by permission.
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