In today’s volunteer force, when women sign up, they may have questions about military life that are different from the ones men would ask. Many female recruits turn to video blogs for advice.
Dolly Marie Spice is a senior airman in the Air Force Reserves. When she first enlisted, she was looking for a little advice and not just about hair styles. She turned to YouTube and even there, her search turned up empty. So she started blogging about her own experiences. So far, she has made 30 videos where she talks to her 2,000 followers.
Usually, when recruits want to find out what life in the military is really going to be like, they go to their recruiter. But women who are signing up face different challenges, have different questions and men don’t always have the answers.
Sergeant Bridget Jackson works in an Army recruiting station in Largo, Maryland. All the female recruits in the area get forwarded to her. She says they tend to be very inquisitive.
“They want to know how do I feel about leaving my family; are we able to wash our hair and take a shower. And I don’t know what myths they heard of but they want to know, as a female, if I’m out there in Afghanistan, am I out there in the middle of nowhere not taking a shower”.
Her newest recruit, Erica Mason, has those doubts, too, though she’s not completely uninitiated; she comes from a military family and she did Junior ROTC. That means she’s ready for the culture shock. But she’ll be away from her two kids for 17 weeks. When she talks to her husband, a retired Marine, there are things he just doesn’t understand.
“I always tell him, you went in right after high school. You had no family. You’ve never left kids that you gave birth to or your spouse. That’s pretty much like nothing that anybody can understand, unless you went through it and you’re a mom and you left your kids for boot camp or you left for deployment or something. Nobody understands”.
Sergeant Jackson, her recruiter, understands. She was a single mom when she deployed. Now she talks to her recruits about everything, from how she used to get her nails done on base in Afghanistan to how she advanced in her military career.
She describes herself as a hot commodity. The men in her recruiting office can’t do what she does. In her company of 40 soldiers there are only three women.
That means most women have men for recruiters. So when they want advice from women already in the military, they go online to interact with bloggers like Spice.
There are more than 20 other bloggers like her on Youtube. They’re from every branch of service, active duty and reserves. They answer private questions and offer support. Video bloggers aren’t recruiters but they fill a void for women signing up with questions about everything, from what to do with their hair to how to say goodbye to their kids when they go off to war.