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Love My Rifle More than You: Young and Female in the U.S. Army

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Kayla Williams is one of the 15 percent of the U.S. Army that is female, and she is a great storyteller. With a voice that is “funny, frank and full of gritty details” (New York Daily News), she tells of enlisting under Clinton; of learning Arabic; of the sense of duty that fractured her relationships; of being surrounded by bravery and bigotry, sexism and fear; of seeing Kayla Williams is one of the 15 percent of the U.S. Army that is female, and she is a great storyteller. With a voice that is “funny, frank and full of gritty details” (New York Daily News), she tells of enlisting under Clinton; of learning Arabic; of the sense of duty that fractured her relationships; of being surrounded by bravery and bigotry, sexism and fear; of seeing 9/11 on Al-Jazeera; and of knowing she would be going to war. With a passion that makes her memoir “nearly impossible to put down” (Buffalo News) Williams shares the powerful gamut of her experiences in Iraq, from caring for a wounded civilian to aiming a rifle at a child. Angry at the bureaucracy and the conflicting messages of today’s military, Williams offers us “a raw, unadulterated look at war” (San Antonio Express News) and at the U.S. Army. And she gives us a woman’s story of empowerment and self-discovery.


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Kayla Williams is one of the 15 percent of the U.S. Army that is female, and she is a great storyteller. With a voice that is “funny, frank and full of gritty details” (New York Daily News), she tells of enlisting under Clinton; of learning Arabic; of the sense of duty that fractured her relationships; of being surrounded by bravery and bigotry, sexism and fear; of seeing Kayla Williams is one of the 15 percent of the U.S. Army that is female, and she is a great storyteller. With a voice that is “funny, frank and full of gritty details” (New York Daily News), she tells of enlisting under Clinton; of learning Arabic; of the sense of duty that fractured her relationships; of being surrounded by bravery and bigotry, sexism and fear; of seeing 9/11 on Al-Jazeera; and of knowing she would be going to war. With a passion that makes her memoir “nearly impossible to put down” (Buffalo News) Williams shares the powerful gamut of her experiences in Iraq, from caring for a wounded civilian to aiming a rifle at a child. Angry at the bureaucracy and the conflicting messages of today’s military, Williams offers us “a raw, unadulterated look at war” (San Antonio Express News) and at the U.S. Army. And she gives us a woman’s story of empowerment and self-discovery.

30 review for Love My Rifle More than You: Young and Female in the U.S. Army

  1. 5 out of 5

    Dan Doughty

    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 t 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.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Eva Leger

    When I first saw this book I thought it looked interesting. Aside from the fact that Williams looks almost exactly like my best friend from high school (she didn't have Williams' high forehead), I thought it might give me a glimpse into army life. It did that. It did that well to be honest. When I got the book I let it sit around for months which is nothing unusual for me. The only reason i even read it right now was for a reading challenge. When I started the book I was a little unnerved. Willi When I first saw this book I thought it looked interesting. Aside from the fact that Williams looks almost exactly like my best friend from high school (she didn't have Williams' high forehead), I thought it might give me a glimpse into army life. It did that. It did that well to be honest. When I got the book I let it sit around for months which is nothing unusual for me. The only reason i even read it right now was for a reading challenge. When I started the book I was a little unnerved. Williams for some reason thought it was an okay thing to speak nagetively about Jessica Lynch and Lynndie England. What she said doesn't really matter- it's the fact that she said it. She's supposed to have morals and hold up certain expectations (her words) yet she feels it's okay to diss other soldiers? That really struck me wrong and I thought it was going to color the entire book for me. In the end it didn't but I still don't like her. She's no better than Lynch or England in my eyes- each has their own faults like everyone else. Somehow, as much as that bothered me, I was able to get past it and not let it make the rest of the book seem awful. If you're wanting a day to day knowledge of what some soldiers face at war then this is a good book for that. She *seems* very honest, with everything, from the daily situations to her thoughts and feelings. She mentioned a few things I surely wouldn't have. I wish she'd have put in a bit more about the locals but that's just me and I won't fault the book for that. I can read about them elsewhere if I want to. I didn't think she was too hard on the other females at all. I've seen some reviews and heard people say they thought that. I didn't get the impression of that at all. I think she's right with everything she said in relation to the women. I'd hate to be one of two women soldiers in a group of 100+ male soldiers and then have the other female screwing all these guys. What does that make them think about women in general? She had and has every right to be hard on those women. She mentioned the incompentant ones along with the ones she felt were honorable soldiers. You can't really ask someone for more than that. I thought she included both side of the coin which is all I can ask. Like I said, it seems very honest. Nancy Pearl out of Seattle seems to think the book is "brave, honest, and necessary." It is honest (from what I could tell) but brave? Mmmmmm...not really. Necessary? Sorry, nope. 1 out of 3 ain't bad though right?

  3. 5 out of 5

    Cara

    I thought about a five star rating, and I very nearly gave it, but I’ll tell you what stopped me. I am so much like Williams in so many ways, it’s a bit freaky. Female Army Arabic linguist, joined around the same date, already had a degree, was in my late 20s, served in Iraq in 2003-04, etc. I didn’t give a five star rating because there were several times reading this book that I was frustrated about the way Williams generalized. We had many similar experiences, but many different ones, too. Th I thought about a five star rating, and I very nearly gave it, but I’ll tell you what stopped me. I am so much like Williams in so many ways, it’s a bit freaky. Female Army Arabic linguist, joined around the same date, already had a degree, was in my late 20s, served in Iraq in 2003-04, etc. I didn’t give a five star rating because there were several times reading this book that I was frustrated about the way Williams generalized. We had many similar experiences, but many different ones, too. This book could serve as a starting point for a discussion of my deployment and Army service, but not a perfect one. The generalization could make that harder. That said, I admired Williams’ courage in sharing some humbling experiences she had. I’m impressed with the way her descriptions took me back there. And most of all, I appreciate the fact that she wrote openly and directly about the b*tch/slut problem military women face. It’s difficult to remain professional when your coworkers objectify you and make you feel unsafe. I lived that throughout my service, but especially on deployment. So thank you, Kayla, for this book.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    This was a quick but powerful read on what it really means to serve in the US army as a woman. Kayla's straightforward, no-nonsense writing style appealed to me; she lays out her experiences in a direct way. There are some unexpectedly darkly humorous portions at the beginning (such as her list of "How to Prepare for Getting Deployed to Iraq"). However, much of what she describes is intense and uncomfortable (expected, given the subject matter). Williams was deployed right after 9/11, when the U This was a quick but powerful read on what it really means to serve in the US army as a woman. Kayla's straightforward, no-nonsense writing style appealed to me; she lays out her experiences in a direct way. There are some unexpectedly darkly humorous portions at the beginning (such as her list of "How to Prepare for Getting Deployed to Iraq"). However, much of what she describes is intense and uncomfortable (expected, given the subject matter). Williams was deployed right after 9/11, when the US initially got involved in Iraq, and while everyone knows by now that that was a huge screw-up on the part of the US government, it is emotionally difficult to read how Williams and her fellow soldiers saw that unfold on a day-to-day basis while serving. Williams also gets into the rampant misogyny that permeates the armed forces, and how it made the jobs of the female soldiers even more difficult. She also describes the frustrating behavior of some of the women she served with, and I have to question how they ever got into the armed forces to begin with, let alone deployed. However, on the other hand, not everyone is born knowing how to be a leader, and the army is like any other organization--it sometimes promotes people who really shouldn't be in positions of authority. Overall, I would recommend this memoir to someone who is curious about the experiences of female soldiers. I am now curious to read other memoirs to see how they all compare.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Brett

    Seems like there should be a really good book in here, but Love My Rifle More Than You never quite finds it stride. Kayla Williams is a linguist, a soldier, and a woman. She's had incredible experiences in combat in Iraq. She's experienced sexism of all sorts in her military career. As I say, sounds like an interesting story. But there's not much a thread. Williams feels like she hops from topic to topic without much a plan. Her tone ricochets from bravado to whiny. The emotional heft we expect Seems like there should be a really good book in here, but Love My Rifle More Than You never quite finds it stride. Kayla Williams is a linguist, a soldier, and a woman. She's had incredible experiences in combat in Iraq. She's experienced sexism of all sorts in her military career. As I say, sounds like an interesting story. But there's not much a thread. Williams feels like she hops from topic to topic without much a plan. Her tone ricochets from bravado to whiny. The emotional heft we expect to feel is rarely present. I wish I could give this book more of a recommendation, since it's an area that no doubt is deserving of a lot more ink. I'd look for my first-person feminist military tell-all elsewhere.

  6. 4 out of 5

    David P

    Odd title, but strangely appropriate, taken from an army marching chant: "Cindy, Cindy, Cindy Lou / Love my rifle more than you / You once were my beauty queen / Now I love my M-16. " Kayla Williams, single and unattached, needed a job and wanted something out of the ordinary, so she enlisted in the US army. Product of a broken home and a somewhat irregular upbringing, she has sharp insight and wit, and this is her story. It reads well and provokes thought. When she enlisted, she made a deal--th Odd title, but strangely appropriate, taken from an army marching chant: "Cindy, Cindy, Cindy Lou / Love my rifle more than you / You once were my beauty queen / Now I love my M-16. " Kayla Williams, single and unattached, needed a job and wanted something out of the ordinary, so she enlisted in the US army. Product of a broken home and a somewhat irregular upbringing, she has sharp insight and wit, and this is her story. It reads well and provokes thought. When she enlisted, she made a deal--the army would get a few extra years of service, and in return would teach her Arabic and train her for intelligence work. Naturally, she ended serving in Iraq--for one year, described in considerable detail. That was the first year of the US war in Iraq, starting with the invasion and ending when matters were only starting to go sour, with suicide bombs and IEDs or "improvised explosive devices." It was never a picnic. Even without the brutal summer heat, Iraq must have seemed to US servicemen as completely alien. To a soldier fluent in Arabic--like the author--the picture is only slightly clearer; to the average soldier it must have appeared utterly confusing. Tension is everpresent. That car trying to weave into a military convoy--is that a terrorist trying to plant a bomb, or just a pushy Iraqi driver, engaged in the national pastime of trying to get ahead of traffic? Quick, now (gun loaded, finger on the safety catch): shoot, or hold your fire? The reader will wonder here about many things (the book is a page turner), but three come to mind right away. What are Iraqis like? Kayla comes across some appalling poverty, especially out in the country; yet when those people view you as a friend, they can be surprisingly generous with the little they have. What is it like to be a woman soldier in the US army? Depends of course where you are and what you do, but a woman in the field (such as the author) faces many of the same problems as any soldier. A lot depends on one's wits and resourcefulness, on making friends and learning to shrug off occasional army stupidity. Luckily, Kayla is good at all of these. And the big question--how good really is the US army? The limited evidence here makes it hard to decide. Some soldiers Kayla served with were very good, resilient and dedicated. Others were mechanical and uninspired--and when in command, uninspiring--playing the army's game (to use her term, "assholes"). In the end, the quality of any army depends on what it is called upon to do. In WW-II and Korea front lines were clearly drawn, and much of the army's training is still oriented towards such wars. The Iraq war--like the ones in Viet-Nam and Afghanistan--is fought amid a civilian population, most of which just wants to live as normally as possible, assured of its safety, food, shelter and a few comforts. Very different. A lot then depends on how Iraqis and Americans relate. Do civilians regard Americans as being on their side, trying genuinely to guide them to a better life? And do Americans try to understand the Iraqis? So few Americans speak their language--can there be a meaningful interaction? Kayla's story reinforces the impression that the US army was ill prepared for this kind of fighting, with no clear separation of bystanders and combatants. Considering that such situations are becoming increasingly common, perhaps instead of asking "how good really is the army?" a more meaningful question might be "are any lessons being learned?" Having read this book, one can only wonder.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Denis Kaufman

    I am a retired sailor who served during the period the Navy opened most enlisted ratings to women. From the 1970's to 1990 I watched women contest and overturn most of the rampant sexism in the Navy. Or so I thought. This book, about life for an Army enlisted woman, makes me wonder. Because I have personal knowledge of some of the characters in the book, I trust the author's veracity. And, I fear the services have a lot of work to do to make sure all its members are equitably treated. As to Kayla I am a retired sailor who served during the period the Navy opened most enlisted ratings to women. From the 1970's to 1990 I watched women contest and overturn most of the rampant sexism in the Navy. Or so I thought. This book, about life for an Army enlisted woman, makes me wonder. Because I have personal knowledge of some of the characters in the book, I trust the author's veracity. And, I fear the services have a lot of work to do to make sure all its members are equitably treated. As to Kayla Williams's account of the Iraq war (at least its opening stages), she provides an accurate and painful account of how the Army screwed up its relations with an occupied population. I attribute this to a mindset within the upper ranks that eschewed "nation-building" and other such tomfoolery that distracted soldiers from the "mission". This attitude was partly due to the successes of Desert Storm and the frustrations of missions during the Clinton years when Army leaders-in particular-wanted to get back to real soldiering. It is worthwhile noting that the author's commander in Iraq was the architect of any success we currently enjoy, Gen David Petraeus, and the hard-ass LTG Ray Odierno, whose 4th Infantry Division's behavior she describes in concerned terms has had an epiphany in how warfare should be conducted and now earns high praise for the quality of his interactions with the Iraqi populace.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Don't think you know "exactly the kind of person" who joins the Army, because Kayla Williams will set you back. If anyone had told me that a person whose favorite music includes Violent Femmes, and whose favorite movie is Dr. Strangelove would be joining the US military, I wouldn't believe them. But that's Kayla. Kayla tells her story of joining the Army and training as a linguist. Just about the time she came out of language school, the US went to war over weapons of mass destruction and Kayla w Don't think you know "exactly the kind of person" who joins the Army, because Kayla Williams will set you back. If anyone had told me that a person whose favorite music includes Violent Femmes, and whose favorite movie is Dr. Strangelove would be joining the US military, I wouldn't believe them. But that's Kayla. Kayla tells her story of joining the Army and training as a linguist. Just about the time she came out of language school, the US went to war over weapons of mass destruction and Kayla was deployed. Her story is filled with the mundane details of Army life, like how a vegetarian finds decent food (hint: the Kosher meals are worth converting for), what obstacles there are to personal hygiene, and how to take care of a pet in a war zone. Understandably, Kayla writes about what it's like to be a woman in the military. I don't think she's a whiner or overly critical. She documents some of the harassment that she experienced, but is very clear-eyed and thoughtful about labeling it "harassment". Some of the women she served with are criticized, but she is also quick to praise the women who she thought competent. The same is true of the men in the book. Kayla also writes about the price war extracts from the soldiers who serve and die, those who are wounded and have to deal with the aftermath, and those who experience personal loss while deployed. Williams' writing is fresh and interesting.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Fadillah

    I wanted to know more about female soldier serving in the U.S Army right after i watched 'The Invisible War' Documentary. I guess i didnt pick the wrong book. Kayla's honesty and bluntly telling the truth what makes me reading this book so fast. The sexism and indirect sexual harassment is viewed as normal by Kayla. She did not felt comfortable with it but at the same, she knew most of them (male soldiers) got a lot on their plates. I am not be able to relate with her justification but at the en I wanted to know more about female soldier serving in the U.S Army right after i watched 'The Invisible War' Documentary. I guess i didnt pick the wrong book. Kayla's honesty and bluntly telling the truth what makes me reading this book so fast. The sexism and indirect sexual harassment is viewed as normal by Kayla. She did not felt comfortable with it but at the same, she knew most of them (male soldiers) got a lot on their plates. I am not be able to relate with her justification but at the end of the day, she's the one who lived among those guys. She confronted how some of higher ranked female soldier sending a wrong message to the whole community of how they can be incompetent, weak and cry baby which left her so frustrated (because she's not like them). Surprisingly, most of them knew that war in Iraq has got nothing to do with 9\11, they all knew that it was for oil. There are some part that i find them to be so hypocrite. They hated when local people tormented dogs but they did the same things to kittens. The rumour of who's being a slut or bitch travelled fast and next thing, some of your unit members didnt talk to you. This book brought me closer on how Kayla felt along the way before being a soldier and right after she returned from Iraq. It was heavy reading in a simpler sense. Judged her all you want but all that she's done in this book is telling right from her heart. I gave 4 stars for this book.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Marissa

    I read this for the NKU Book Connection program this year and, while it certainly is informative, I felt that Williams whined pretty much the whole way through the book about how hard it is to be a female in the military. While this didn't surprise me too much, what did surprise me is her harsh judgement of every other woman around her--none of them satisfied her requirements of what a good soldier looks like. What I think is unfortunate here is that in person, Williams is a well-spoken, rational I read this for the NKU Book Connection program this year and, while it certainly is informative, I felt that Williams whined pretty much the whole way through the book about how hard it is to be a female in the military. While this didn't surprise me too much, what did surprise me is her harsh judgement of every other woman around her--none of them satisfied her requirements of what a good soldier looks like. What I think is unfortunate here is that in person, Williams is a well-spoken, rational and likable person. I was actually pleasantly surprised by her presence when I met her. What I would have liked to see more of in this book would be human emotion or a reason to sympathize and get close to Williams, to understand her situation more. But she tries so hard to "be a man" about it, that she lost me. That said, there are 2-3 times in the book that showed humanity, that showed glimmers of who she is as a person, and for these I was grateful. Had I picked this up on my own, I would not have finished, and yet I think it is a somewhat important read.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Davin

    Kayla was spot on with a lot of what she said about the Army. I was in most of those same places. While I am not a female and can not relate to the some of the same experiences, I wish I had this book before I took my platoon into Iraq. I had a female in my unit and I had a hard time relating to her. This book would have helped. I will say that if you were to pick any female in the army, she would tell you the same stories. Everyone have some of the same stories of sex, of leadership (or lack of Kayla was spot on with a lot of what she said about the Army. I was in most of those same places. While I am not a female and can not relate to the some of the same experiences, I wish I had this book before I took my platoon into Iraq. I had a female in my unit and I had a hard time relating to her. This book would have helped. I will say that if you were to pick any female in the army, she would tell you the same stories. Everyone have some of the same stories of sex, of leadership (or lack of), and of the army in general. Every problem she had I have seen or had myself. She tells you how the army is and does not apologize for it. Over all, I thought the book was well written and truthful from her point of view.

  12. 4 out of 5

    DeAnna

    Having read this, while I continue to support the idea that women should be allowed in the armed forces if they want to be there, I would have a really hard time encouraging any of my female friends or relatives to join. The misogyny is so frightening!

  13. 5 out of 5

    James Kemp

    A compelling read. Honest and eye-opening. A great addition to anyone's understanding of what modern war is like. A female perspective that most men just wouldn't think of. I wish I had read it earlier.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Tom Bevan

    incredibly relevant, there are lessons in here for everyone.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Katt

    My trend for reading military memoirs this month reappeared in Love My Rifle More Than You, which promised to offer some thoughtful insight into the world of a female linguist, Kayla Williams, deployed to Iraq during the early years of OIF. In hindsight, and after reading all the Goodreads reviews of the book, I think I placed too much weight on the subtitle of the book--Young and Female in the U.S. Army when I anticipated the content. I anticipated something akin to M. J. Hegar's Shoot Like a G My trend for reading military memoirs this month reappeared in Love My Rifle More Than You, which promised to offer some thoughtful insight into the world of a female linguist, Kayla Williams, deployed to Iraq during the early years of OIF. In hindsight, and after reading all the Goodreads reviews of the book, I think I placed too much weight on the subtitle of the book--Young and Female in the U.S. Army when I anticipated the content. I anticipated something akin to M. J. Hegar's Shoot Like a Girl in a lot of ways (and that's on me, and that's likely because Hegar's memoir was the last military memoir I read.) There's a lot happening in book that offers insight into the daily life of a deployed soldier, and there's insight into specific struggles of being female and deployed; however, I think that Williams could have done a much better job with many aspects of the book. In terms of content, Williams provides a lot of ground-level experience and history to the early years of the war (2003) and the daily struggles of the soldiers deployed--from interactions with locals who do not listen to benevolent locals who bring her team food and help them erect a fence, and even discussion of locals who become young entrepreneurs to supply the soldiers with things they need and even things they don't need. Williams offers gritty details about the weeks on end spent sitting around at a listening post with nobody around except the other members of her team--all male. She discusses how she was recruited--because she was female and blonde--to assist with interrogations of arrested Iraqis, and her details of these interrogations are not for the reader with a weak stomach. For a reader looking for details into the early years of the war from a ground soldier's perspective (but not from an infantry perspective), there is good information here. However, if you're looking for gritty details on being female and deployed at this period in time, you'll find much less. There is sexual assault (which Williams reports only unofficially) and there is discussion of how you manage to urinate in a bottle during a lengthy convoy as a female, and there are the more stereotypical details such as being leered at because females are a commodity on base, and there are discussions of the distinctions between bitch and slut for deployed females. Yet, if you're looking for an angle to the book, I find there's a lot more of Williams' struggles to maintain her veganism while deployed than there are struggles to being female and deployed. I do not doubt there are more distinctions to being female and deployed, especially in 2003, but I felt that Williams lost sight of this purpose throughout the book. There is, of course, the chance that Williams' voice and writing style distracted me from the content. I appreciate that Williams used a casual tone throughout the book, but her overuse of expletives gave me the impression that she believed she had to use language to bolster her persona as a female deployed to a combat zone. I have no issue with expletives in writing, but so many of her uses of expletives felt unnecessary and (in some cases) random. In addition, there are several sections of the book where the writing becomes disjointed and it's unclear why she's jumping randomly from one topic to the next with only the transition of a blank line. But I believe what confused me the most were the constant, inexplicable sentence fragments. I teach my students the power of a sentence fragment as a means of emphasis, but the emphasis must be clear. A fragment like "Feeling this severe frustration" (270) is not an emphasis fragment, but a clearly incomplete thought, and these happen throughout the book to varying degrees of distraction. I learned a lot from Love My Rifle More Than You, and I appreciate that Williams took the time to write this book. There is a lot of important insight here for the history of both OIF and for the history of deployed females. I always appreciate a first-person perspective of female military service, deployed or not, and Williams is not an exception to this.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Rachel Desmond

    I read it in one plane ride, so obviously I liked it.. but I didn't love it. The storytelling part of it was so scattered, and it was hard to pick up on a central theme. I was expecting a biography, but Williams was reluctant to get intimate with the reader. The one thing I appreciated about this book was that it did not make me want to join the military at all. I was a little worried that it would be the final push, but nope! Williams details war for what it is: mundane. She describes the stagg I read it in one plane ride, so obviously I liked it.. but I didn't love it. The storytelling part of it was so scattered, and it was hard to pick up on a central theme. I was expecting a biography, but Williams was reluctant to get intimate with the reader. The one thing I appreciated about this book was that it did not make me want to join the military at all. I was a little worried that it would be the final push, but nope! Williams details war for what it is: mundane. She describes the staggering inefficiencies plaguing military life and how helpless you are in the face of such a sprawling system. The bureaucracy of the whole affair- yikes. It was interesting to hear her take on interrogations- what she saw, what she participated in. I loved that she brought the Stanford prison Experiment into it, and I think she made a great point. If this psychological experiment with volunteers can go SO wrong and that the volunteers will mistreat each other just because they can, what should we expect from our armed forces? They've got the uniforms and the power on their side in an interrogation, AND they think that what they're doing is going to help save their country. Are they monsters for what they did? And then, how do they readjust after that? Go home to a wife and small kid? Interesting perspective. I also wonder what Williams would make of the Army now, nearly 20 years later. And what she'd think of how girls were raised now- are they tougher? More sure of themselves?

  17. 4 out of 5

    Darra

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Although I enjoyed hearing stories from a fellow female soldier, I was left hoping for more explanations for some of the stories she chose to share. Large sections felt like incomplete journal entires and while they made for a quick read overall, it seemed shallow. If you’ve been in the military for any length of time, you may experience, or hear about instances of, sexual harassment and assault. It didn’t shock me to read this about her deployment, but it disappointed me to realize nothing much Although I enjoyed hearing stories from a fellow female soldier, I was left hoping for more explanations for some of the stories she chose to share. Large sections felt like incomplete journal entires and while they made for a quick read overall, it seemed shallow. If you’ve been in the military for any length of time, you may experience, or hear about instances of, sexual harassment and assault. It didn’t shock me to read this about her deployment, but it disappointed me to realize nothing much has changed in the years between her service and my own. Perhaps I was anticipating more rage in her writing, more demands for justice, or maybe even more honest writing about that experience? Even though she wrote after the fact, it still came across as censored.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Meg Anderson

    I really wanted to like this book. However, what brought this book down for me was that she seems to fall into the same pattern that she is fighting against. Frustrated with how male soldiers treats her (completely justified), she spends the majority of the book ruthlessly tearing down most of the other women that she works with. It seems that most women she meets are woefully incompetent and not good soldiers, which almost seems to agree with the men in the book who continue to rag on women sol I really wanted to like this book. However, what brought this book down for me was that she seems to fall into the same pattern that she is fighting against. Frustrated with how male soldiers treats her (completely justified), she spends the majority of the book ruthlessly tearing down most of the other women that she works with. It seems that most women she meets are woefully incompetent and not good soldiers, which almost seems to agree with the men in the book who continue to rag on women soldiers. The messages about the hardship of working as a linguist, horrors faced in combat, and the difficulties of being a woman in the Army were all important. However, those messages get lost when she’s continually focusing on the perceived inadequacies of the women around her.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Williams

    I really wanted to like this book; however, the first chapter or two really turned me off and the rest was not always believable. I served in the Army for 22 years. During that time I had good and bad leaders. I served with both women and men who had no business in the military. I also served with men and women who were excellent soldiers and leaders. Williams seemingly had no good direct NCO leadership. However, she portrays herself as always at the top. So much of the book seemed to be slanted I really wanted to like this book; however, the first chapter or two really turned me off and the rest was not always believable. I served in the Army for 22 years. During that time I had good and bad leaders. I served with both women and men who had no business in the military. I also served with men and women who were excellent soldiers and leaders. Williams seemingly had no good direct NCO leadership. However, she portrays herself as always at the top. So much of the book seemed to be slanted to show her in a good light and most of the other women (though not her two BFFs) in a poor light.

  20. 5 out of 5

    David Teachout

    This is a must-read for opening window of perception. The author notes her own mental expansion, the questions it raises and the jarring impact of being confronted by the sheer difference coming back home. This isn’t a smooth story. It’s much closer to a diary and I found it added to the reality of the story. This is someone completely real, someone who doesn’t have all the answers, who simply wants to live by principles and finds how often that is difficult to do. For so many of us who have not This is a must-read for opening window of perception. The author notes her own mental expansion, the questions it raises and the jarring impact of being confronted by the sheer difference coming back home. This isn’t a smooth story. It’s much closer to a diary and I found it added to the reality of the story. This is someone completely real, someone who doesn’t have all the answers, who simply wants to live by principles and finds how often that is difficult to do. For so many of us who have not or ever will serve, but support those who do, it is deeply important to do more than “support the troops,” but to recognize as much as possible what they’re being asked to do and experience.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Kate Watson

    Outstanding! Thank you Kayla Williams for this gift. Your grit, your values, your challenges are beautifully articulated. This is raw, real and a must-read for everyone - especially for those of us who have not served. We can't even begun to understand the world of our soldiers, Marines, sailors and airmen and women who are serving without reading the reporting of those who have. This woman salutes all if you and sends special kudos to the 18% of our service population who are women.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Reney A. Lizotte

    Good book about the Military and I've Read Plenty I gave Kayla Williams 5 stars for this effort. The narrative felt honest with just enough grit. Her perspective changes throughout the story. But as things get tougher in Iraq, Kayla still manages to handle all her characters with empathy, Grace and humanity. I still struggle to understand our involvement in the Middle East, but Kayla's tale has definitely taught me to stay open and keep learning. There is much beyond our civilian interpretation o Good book about the Military and I've Read Plenty I gave Kayla Williams 5 stars for this effort. The narrative felt honest with just enough grit. Her perspective changes throughout the story. But as things get tougher in Iraq, Kayla still manages to handle all her characters with empathy, Grace and humanity. I still struggle to understand our involvement in the Middle East, but Kayla's tale has definitely taught me to stay open and keep learning. There is much beyond our civilian interpretation of what life is like as a female soldier.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Rob Williams

    Excellent portrayal of the sad reality of life for a lot of young women in the Army during that time. I found it extra interesting because we joined the Army around the same time and I spent a lot of time in the same places of Iraq after she did. In fact, my unit relieved her unit in early 2004. It’s a well written, easy to read page turner that I couldn’t put down. A few inaccuracies as far as names of weapons systems or other acronyms that I caught but nothing to kill the book. Overall a great Excellent portrayal of the sad reality of life for a lot of young women in the Army during that time. I found it extra interesting because we joined the Army around the same time and I spent a lot of time in the same places of Iraq after she did. In fact, my unit relieved her unit in early 2004. It’s a well written, easy to read page turner that I couldn’t put down. A few inaccuracies as far as names of weapons systems or other acronyms that I caught but nothing to kill the book. Overall a great read.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Patrick Garvey

    Good read. Loved it. I read the book after having met the author, who does policy work in DC now, in 2019. The author weaves a good yarn and gives this fellow Iraq vet a view of what it was like that first year from the invasion to the beginning of the insurgency. The perspective of a woman in “the trenches “ is most vivid, and I feel asif I’m there with them. Her characters are so vivid. I don’t give many fives. Ever. Chuckle to myself as I can hear the 2005 Kayla saying something about that, b Good read. Loved it. I read the book after having met the author, who does policy work in DC now, in 2019. The author weaves a good yarn and gives this fellow Iraq vet a view of what it was like that first year from the invasion to the beginning of the insurgency. The perspective of a woman in “the trenches “ is most vivid, and I feel asif I’m there with them. Her characters are so vivid. I don’t give many fives. Ever. Chuckle to myself as I can hear the 2005 Kayla saying something about that, but it’s first book of its kind I’ve read...

  25. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

    Somewhere between 2 and 3 stars. The good: The book offers the perspective of a female junior enlisted soldier during the initial invasion of Iraq in 2003, and throughout the year long deployment. She has observations and some insights that leaders across the force should understand. The bad: Often, the author has an insight, but leaves it after one or two sentences. Shen then will go on page after page on how much she hates her bosses and supervisors. For every insight described above, there is m Somewhere between 2 and 3 stars. The good: The book offers the perspective of a female junior enlisted soldier during the initial invasion of Iraq in 2003, and throughout the year long deployment. She has observations and some insights that leaders across the force should understand. The bad: Often, the author has an insight, but leaves it after one or two sentences. Shen then will go on page after page on how much she hates her bosses and supervisors. For every insight described above, there is more on how much she hates her team leader, platoon sergeant, platoon leader, and so on.

  26. 4 out of 5

    TheIron Paw

    This book should be read alongside Sebastian Junger's "War". Williams gives a very frank account of her experience as "young and female in the U.S. Army" especially her deployment in Iraq. Her story highlights the many conflicted emotions and thoughts she had concerning the war, the army, and especially with herself and the decisions she made. A very enlightening read.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Carol Rizzardi

    A powerful, first-hand account of not only being female in the US Army, but also being part of the so-called "liberation force" invading Iraq. The author sugarcoats nothing and questions not only the mission but also her own duplicity. I read this based on a mention in a New York Times article on women in the military. It was a worthwhile read.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Tom Bevan

    Very candid and revealing. I would recommend everyone in the forces to read it with a view to understanding a soldier's view on their leaders and the understanding men's hangups with women in a macho, pressurised career.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    I read this book a long time ago. It wasn’t a boring or terrible read (and if I could give it two and a half stars, I would). The reviewers who said there was no analysis of the events that happened and how they could have fit into a bigger picture were spot on.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Candace

    Excellent memoir of the author’s Army career and deployment to Iraq. Honest and unflinching, and also perhaps a meditation on the horrible absurdity of war.

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