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The Strong Ones: How a Band of Civilian Women Made Their Mark on the Army

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From bestselling author Sara Hammel comes an inspiring new book that celebrates the power of women. They said women couldn't keep up. They said women weren't strong enough to do the military's toughest jobs. In 1995, a ragtag band of civilians came to prove them wrong. "An important story...No pedestal for these young American lionesses! Cheers and accolades instead." --Pat From bestselling author Sara Hammel comes an inspiring new book that celebrates the power of women. They said women couldn't keep up. They said women weren't strong enough to do the military's toughest jobs. In 1995, a ragtag band of civilians came to prove them wrong. "An important story...No pedestal for these young American lionesses! Cheers and accolades instead." --Pat Schroeder, former Congresswoman and member of the House Armed Services Committee THE STRONG ONES will inspire a new generation with its cast of ordinary women overcoming daunting obstacles—and will thrill readers with a stunning and heartwarming twist. The Strong Ones is the inspiring true story of forty-five civilian women, including the author, who volunteered for a controversial seven-month Army strength study in 1995-and proved just how strong women can get. A hybrid of memoir and military history that will appeal to fans of Wild and Ashley's War, The Strong Ones also lays bare the raw emotions, vulnerabilities and body image struggles of those who dug deep to show what it means to be a strong woman-in every sense. With females still banned from combat and their supposed lack of physical strength used as a reason to keep them out, women from around Massachusetts-including moms, teachers, a landscaper, a prison guard, a journalist and one solider-came to change the rules. Female soldiers were busy serving their country so these civilians stepped in, forming a sisterhood like no other through 75-lb backpack hikes, 110-lb trailer pulls, shared pain, keg parties, snowball fights and a refusal to fail. Author Sara Hammel, a test subject and reporter with exclusive access to the study, traces the women and their results through the years, revealing how their efforts came full circle decades later when all military jobs were opened up to women. Exclusive interviews with former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, former Congresswoman Pat Schroeder and Shannon Faulkner add context to this historic shift in military policy, anchoring the study firmly in the present.


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From bestselling author Sara Hammel comes an inspiring new book that celebrates the power of women. They said women couldn't keep up. They said women weren't strong enough to do the military's toughest jobs. In 1995, a ragtag band of civilians came to prove them wrong. "An important story...No pedestal for these young American lionesses! Cheers and accolades instead." --Pat From bestselling author Sara Hammel comes an inspiring new book that celebrates the power of women. They said women couldn't keep up. They said women weren't strong enough to do the military's toughest jobs. In 1995, a ragtag band of civilians came to prove them wrong. "An important story...No pedestal for these young American lionesses! Cheers and accolades instead." --Pat Schroeder, former Congresswoman and member of the House Armed Services Committee THE STRONG ONES will inspire a new generation with its cast of ordinary women overcoming daunting obstacles—and will thrill readers with a stunning and heartwarming twist. The Strong Ones is the inspiring true story of forty-five civilian women, including the author, who volunteered for a controversial seven-month Army strength study in 1995-and proved just how strong women can get. A hybrid of memoir and military history that will appeal to fans of Wild and Ashley's War, The Strong Ones also lays bare the raw emotions, vulnerabilities and body image struggles of those who dug deep to show what it means to be a strong woman-in every sense. With females still banned from combat and their supposed lack of physical strength used as a reason to keep them out, women from around Massachusetts-including moms, teachers, a landscaper, a prison guard, a journalist and one solider-came to change the rules. Female soldiers were busy serving their country so these civilians stepped in, forming a sisterhood like no other through 75-lb backpack hikes, 110-lb trailer pulls, shared pain, keg parties, snowball fights and a refusal to fail. Author Sara Hammel, a test subject and reporter with exclusive access to the study, traces the women and their results through the years, revealing how their efforts came full circle decades later when all military jobs were opened up to women. Exclusive interviews with former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, former Congresswoman Pat Schroeder and Shannon Faulkner add context to this historic shift in military policy, anchoring the study firmly in the present.

42 review for The Strong Ones: How a Band of Civilian Women Made Their Mark on the Army

  1. 4 out of 5

    Deacon Tom F

    This incredible non-fiction book, “The Strong Ones: How a Band of Civilian Women Made Their Mark on the Army” was written by Sara Hammel. “The Strong Ones” is a first-hand account of 45 women who volunteered and challenged the longstanding beliefs surrounding how women were not strong enough to do the military’s toughest jobs. These incredible women proved the Army wrong! Also they demonstrated how strong women are! The author captures the minute details including the immense feelings like encourage This incredible non-fiction book, “The Strong Ones: How a Band of Civilian Women Made Their Mark on the Army” was written by Sara Hammel. “The Strong Ones” is a first-hand account of 45 women who volunteered and challenged the longstanding beliefs surrounding how women were not strong enough to do the military’s toughest jobs. These incredible women proved the Army wrong! Also they demonstrated how strong women are! The author captures the minute details including the immense feelings like encouragement, affirmations, pain, friendship, and determination. This inspiring book proves without a doubt--empowered women can be strong both mentally and physically. This should be on the bookshelf of all women with military background or interest, especially young women. The book was a flashback for me. I was an Air. Force Leader during this period and remember these discussions clearly. It touched me deeply then and it does today. I recommend this book highly. I received this book free as an advanced reader copy. This review is given voluntarily.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Hayley

    I received this ARC via Netgalley who provided the book for an honest review. I loved this book, I enjoyed the camaraderie between the women in their study groups, the friendships they made, and how they provided vital data that changed how women in the military were treated, and how they opened jobs previously denied to women. There's a lovely storyline of a modern women attempting to become a Marine, and the trials and tribulations of the women who came before her. Overall, an excellent book! I received this ARC via Netgalley who provided the book for an honest review. I loved this book, I enjoyed the camaraderie between the women in their study groups, the friendships they made, and how they provided vital data that changed how women in the military were treated, and how they opened jobs previously denied to women. There's a lovely storyline of a modern women attempting to become a Marine, and the trials and tribulations of the women who came before her. Overall, an excellent book!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Sharon D

    I loved the book! What I liked the most was living through the turmoil with the women. It's every woman's story in a man's world. It's always that we can't do it, but these women did. Every day they ran and lifted and worked out and toiled with aches, blisters, and pains, and the reader traveled right along with them. Every day, I picked up the book wanting the women to succeed, and they did. Also, they worried about the things we all worry about, weight and how our bodies look, but most importa I loved the book! What I liked the most was living through the turmoil with the women. It's every woman's story in a man's world. It's always that we can't do it, but these women did. Every day they ran and lifted and worked out and toiled with aches, blisters, and pains, and the reader traveled right along with them. Every day, I picked up the book wanting the women to succeed, and they did. Also, they worried about the things we all worry about, weight and how our bodies look, but most importantly, not letting down our fellow women. The book is about a true story, and it was like reading a personal diary. Sara gives a great deal of historical facts about women and the military and political opinion. In the beginning of the story, I found myself wanting to skip some of those facts because I already knew them, but I loved Sara's story, and I loved all the women involved.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Marianne Potter

    This book shows the importance of women supporting one another to achieve a goal.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Everett

    An Excellent Book on Several Different Levels This is the true story of a group of 45 women who volunteered for a months-long Army research study whose goal was to see if women could be trained to meet the physical demands of very heavy Army jobs. But it is a lot more than that: 1) It provides a history of women’s struggle to enter the military and be permitted to function in an increasing number of roles, including combat and high leadership positions. 2) It chronicles the study from the time it c An Excellent Book on Several Different Levels This is the true story of a group of 45 women who volunteered for a months-long Army research study whose goal was to see if women could be trained to meet the physical demands of very heavy Army jobs. But it is a lot more than that: 1) It provides a history of women’s struggle to enter the military and be permitted to function in an increasing number of roles, including combat and high leadership positions. 2) It chronicles the study from the time it created a national uproar when the planned project became publicized to when the final results were released. During that time, the women developed very strong bonds, encouraging each other to train hard, get stronger, and excel at extremely difficult simulated military challenges. 3) It tells the very personal story of a young woman who took on the challenges of the study. She pulls no punches in relating her body image problems, her romantic ups and downs, and her relationships with the other women in the study. Overall, this is a very uplifting book that has a broad spectrum of appeal - a very enjoyable read.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Chris W

    Wow.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jean

    Sara Hammel’s book The Strong Ones: How a Band of Civilian Women Made Their Mark on the Army is an inspiring book. I felt proud on behalf of those women who struggled to prove the strength of women, who grew beyond the messages that women are less than men and are worthy only in terms of physical beauty, and who grew close to each other receiving stamina through each other’s encouragement. I am as proud of them as I am of all those who pave the way to help those who will come after them. The boo Sara Hammel’s book The Strong Ones: How a Band of Civilian Women Made Their Mark on the Army is an inspiring book. I felt proud on behalf of those women who struggled to prove the strength of women, who grew beyond the messages that women are less than men and are worthy only in terms of physical beauty, and who grew close to each other receiving stamina through each other’s encouragement. I am as proud of them as I am of all those who pave the way to help those who will come after them. The book is a pleasant read filled with memories for the mid 1990’s, US military history, and observations from 2020. I believe it is particularly of value to young women, but I am not young and it touched me deeply. I received this book free as an advanced reader copy. This review is given voluntarily. I am thankful to have had this opportunity.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Sue

    The story of a group of ordinary civilian women who voluntarily take on the challenge of proving to the world that women are as strong, as capable, and certainly as courageous as their male counterparts when it comes to serving in the military. I had never heard of this 7-month study and I appreciated the author’s recapping of the historical struggle that women have had in being able to serve in our military and specifically in combat. The author weaves her story, as one of those civilian women, The story of a group of ordinary civilian women who voluntarily take on the challenge of proving to the world that women are as strong, as capable, and certainly as courageous as their male counterparts when it comes to serving in the military. I had never heard of this 7-month study and I appreciated the author’s recapping of the historical struggle that women have had in being able to serve in our military and specifically in combat. The author weaves her story, as one of those civilian women, with the story of women in the military so the book is as described: half memoir and half military history. We also are privy to the story of a young female Marine Corps officer’s journey with a heartwarming twist in the end. I enjoyed reading about the struggles of these civilian women to come together for a greater cause. The author is open and honest about her own journey, the camaraderie, the brutal physical challenges, and her struggles with body image that so many women can identify with. I thoroughly enjoyed this inspiring book and highly recommend it.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Madeline Elsinga

    Thank you BookSirens for the advanced review copy! It was absolutely inspirational-I am in awe of these women!! 💪🏻 Made me think of my mom and how her dreams in the Army couldn’t be fulfilled because of the ban on women in so many areas of the military until 2016. But the fight isn’t over and there’s still a long way to go in fighting for equality in the military. She also briefly discusses the inequality among LGBTQ+ people joining the military in terms of the Don’t ask, don’t tell policy and the Thank you BookSirens for the advanced review copy! It was absolutely inspirational-I am in awe of these women!! 💪🏻 Made me think of my mom and how her dreams in the Army couldn’t be fulfilled because of the ban on women in so many areas of the military until 2016. But the fight isn’t over and there’s still a long way to go in fighting for equality in the military. She also briefly discusses the inequality among LGBTQ+ people joining the military in terms of the Don’t ask, don’t tell policy and the recent ban on openly trans soldiers. One thing about the book that I had a hard time with was all the negative body image talk. Obviously it’s her own experiences and her thoughts about her body as it’s mostly a memoir, but as I struggle with my own body image/body dysmorphia and low self esteem, it made me feel really shitty about myself. A positive side of this was she reflected that “you’d kill to look like the woman to your left meanwhile the woman on your right sees you and wishes she looked like you.” And she acknowledged how women are judged by their appearance, weight, age, etc so it’s not like she projects and pushes these impossible beauty standards but I just want other readers to be aware and practice self care if you read this book and also struggle with body image issues 💕 Hammel writes about the study in a way that doesn’t minimize the experience of service men and women, but highlights the study’s volunteer’s dedication and courage to take part in this study to help future women in the military. The writing style kept the book interesting and I finished sooner than I expected, as I kept wanting to read about these women and their accomplishments. Rating: 4.5/5 Triggers: body shaming/fatphobia, sexual harassment, sexism/misogyny, physical assault (brief mention), blood/medical trauma, vomit, depression, bullying/harassment, miscarriage (very brief mention), infertility (brief mention), racism (brief mention), sexual assault (brief mention), homophobia/transphobia, death, war, profanity

  10. 5 out of 5

    Christine

    I learned of this book from a colleague who was one of the women in the study. I’d never heard of the project and was intrigued; like another reviewer, I love inspirational stories and group memoirs. The book gives great detail on the physical work the women undertook, and I like the way the author wove together different individual experiences, especially her own. I received an advance copy of this from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Sam

    I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. This book kept me gripped until the end and I have to admit the twist got me—I didn’t see that one coming. As the description says, it’s part military history, part memoir, but I also loved reading about the close friendships between the women. This kind of uplifting story is exactly what I needed right now.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Marci

    This non-fiction narrative details the author's experience as a participant in a mid-1990s Army-sponsored study that asked the question, "Can women handle combat?" I served in the military just a few years before this study (I was actually part of the Navy's early 90s experiment with gender-integrated bootcamp.) The study used only civilians, as the scientists wanted to see if women could go from couch potato to combat-ready soldier within just seven months. I found every detail of the study fas This non-fiction narrative details the author's experience as a participant in a mid-1990s Army-sponsored study that asked the question, "Can women handle combat?" I served in the military just a few years before this study (I was actually part of the Navy's early 90s experiment with gender-integrated bootcamp.) The study used only civilians, as the scientists wanted to see if women could go from couch potato to combat-ready soldier within just seven months. I found every detail of the study fascinating, even if at times it could read as repetitive. The author participated as a newspaper reporter on special assignment, and that is apparent in the writing style - it is very detail-oriented. Truthfully I found it a more enjoyable read learning the ins and outs of the study, and less so when reading the narrative about her struggle with weight issues, romance, etc...but certainly that could say more about me than the story. Overall, it is a well-written recollection of a moment in history that very few know about, but everyone is now impacted by. Because of the persistence of these women - from a college athlete to a stay-at-home mom, the military is now acheiving its goal of equality across career fields. At times, the sexism is so infuriating, I almost can't believe that this was "the way it was" as recently as when I was in my early twenties - how far we have come. Women truly are The Strong Ones! I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen Riggs

    The Strong one. A Stunning and Heart-Warming Book This book is the incredible story written and told by Sara Hammel. The book is a non-fiction examination of a little-known piece of U.S. military history. It is the true story of forty-five civilian women (including the author) who volunteered and entered the army to do a seven-month trial for $500 pay when completed. The study takes place in 1995 when they believed women were not strong enough to do the military’s toughest jobs. These band of wome The Strong one. A Stunning and Heart-Warming Book This book is the incredible story written and told by Sara Hammel. The book is a non-fiction examination of a little-known piece of U.S. military history. It is the true story of forty-five civilian women (including the author) who volunteered and entered the army to do a seven-month trial for $500 pay when completed. The study takes place in 1995 when they believed women were not strong enough to do the military’s toughest jobs. These band of women proved just how strong women can get by not only training together but digging so deep inside themselves and encouraging each other daily and shared pain, friendships, and a refusal to fail. I had never heard of the study and was fascinated with the book and how it knocked down barriers for women to finally be allowed to serve in combat. The book will thrill readers when you read about their efforts which came full circle decades later when all military jobs were opened to women. The book shows how women can be empowered and are far stronger than they look both mentally and physically. "I received an advance review copy for free from BookSirens, and I am leaving this review voluntarily"

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jamie Cha

    I received an advance review copy for free and I am leaving this review voluntarily. I like inspirational books and books about strong women. This book was both. I never heard of the study and was fascinated with it. This is a really good story about being strong, believing in yourself, the strength of female friendship, the workings of the military, coming to age, and shattering myths. The book makes you believe in your own power. I did get a little nostalgic for life in the 1990s. The book went I received an advance review copy for free and I am leaving this review voluntarily. I like inspirational books and books about strong women. This book was both. I never heard of the study and was fascinated with it. This is a really good story about being strong, believing in yourself, the strength of female friendship, the workings of the military, coming to age, and shattering myths. The book makes you believe in your own power. I did get a little nostalgic for life in the 1990s. The book went from telling the story of women who signed up for a study, to the results of the study, facts about women in the military, beliefs on happiness, and follow ups on the women in the study. All the information was very interesting. It didn't all flow well for me. It was a lot of information to put into one book. The first 13 characters, to me, was what the book was about. Overcoming mediocrity to become stronger. Encouraging your friends to be better. I look forward to reading more from the author.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Alicia Williams

    I really enjoyed the parts of this book that explain the impact of the 1995 women's strength study for the US Army. As a female veteran from this era, it's especially impactful to me. I wished there was more of this aspect in the book. I enjoyed the integration of a modern woman joining the Marine Corps and how the study impacted her life. Parts I didn't enjoy as much: * the body-hatred/personality clash/partying details, * the lack of description of the scientific goals of the study and the specif I really enjoyed the parts of this book that explain the impact of the 1995 women's strength study for the US Army. As a female veteran from this era, it's especially impactful to me. I wished there was more of this aspect in the book. I enjoyed the integration of a modern woman joining the Marine Corps and how the study impacted her life. Parts I didn't enjoy as much: * the body-hatred/personality clash/partying details, * the lack of description of the scientific goals of the study and the specific training regimens, * typos and a lack of editing (suffers from rambling at times). Overall, it's a really solid and interesting book about a very unique group of women. It is easy to read and you'll enjoy the women who changed the military from the outside. I'm pleased to have been able to review this book from an ARC copy through BookSirens.com

  16. 4 out of 5

    Karen McG

    The Strong Ones takes you on the journey of civilian women volunteers in the 90’s for the Natick strength study to help women in the military. These women and their trainers worked tirelessly to help prove the strength of women and their capabilities. Author and participant, Sara Hammel, gives us a look into the blood, sweat and tears that went into the program, while also showing how when women come together they can accomplish whatever tasks they are given. I enjoyed reading how she learned to The Strong Ones takes you on the journey of civilian women volunteers in the 90’s for the Natick strength study to help women in the military. These women and their trainers worked tirelessly to help prove the strength of women and their capabilities. Author and participant, Sara Hammel, gives us a look into the blood, sweat and tears that went into the program, while also showing how when women come together they can accomplish whatever tasks they are given. I enjoyed reading how she learned to embrace her body and who she was, and the connections she found. (I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher for my honest review.)

  17. 4 out of 5

    Lorinda Papazoglou

    An extraordinary account of a group of normal, everyday women chosen to achieve something extraordinary. The adage “You never know how strong you are, until being strong is your only option“ came to mind whilst reading and I often thought - ’This should be a movie!’ I received an advance reader copy of the book and found it thoroughly enjoyable and well presented.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Carol Perreault

    This is the very interesting story of the women who entered a special training program for the Army. It was nothing like they expected, and one of the women was a journalist, and kept writing about the process.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Shannon Bailey

  20. 5 out of 5

    Leslie

  21. 5 out of 5

    mary lammi

  22. 5 out of 5

    Ann Delaney

  23. 5 out of 5

    Linda H

  24. 4 out of 5

    Janet Moore

  25. 4 out of 5

    Carolyn

  26. 5 out of 5

    Peggy

  27. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

  28. 5 out of 5

    Aamna Sidhu

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen Bianchi

  30. 5 out of 5

    Riley

  31. 5 out of 5

    Britt Aamodt

  32. 4 out of 5

    Dubravka

  33. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

  34. 4 out of 5

    Jinx:The:Poet {the Literary Masochist, Ink Ninja & Word Roamer}

  35. 4 out of 5

    Celestemcolon

  36. 5 out of 5

    Lía Hermosillo Rojas

  37. 4 out of 5

    Megan

  38. 4 out of 5

    Sandra

  39. 4 out of 5

    Laura Scott

  40. 4 out of 5

    Darlene Schuh

  41. 5 out of 5

    Kindra

  42. 4 out of 5

    Susan Mars

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