Will ‘Starting Strong’ Recruit the Next Generation?



How can the United States Army appeal to a new generation of potential recruits, kids who’ve grown up online in a post-9/11 world? Appeal to a hard-won sense of national patriotism? Emphasize the compelling role models and heroes that two wars have produced?

Why not turn military service into something more like an episode of Survivor? Starting Strong is a new reality series that follows nine potential recruits as they spend three days immersed in Army culture before they decide whether to enlist.

The show has been airing since June 2nd on Sunday mornings on 16 FOX affiliates around the country but the real audience for the program is either asleep or on their way to church, so they’re more likely to watch them on the GoArmy.com YouTube Channel. Each episode follows one potential recruit as he or she gets a three-day immersion in Army culture before making a life-altering decision: sign up or go back to their old life.

The production values make each episode feel a whole lot more like Stars Earn Stripes than the documentary feel of something like Nat Geo TV’s Inside Combat Rescue. There are on-set challenges, confessional moments with the camera and calls home to dubious family members. There’s all the suspense you’d expect from your reality show and not everyone decides to join up at the end of the show.

Episode 1

The production values are really high, much better than any other syndicated show you’re going to catch at 8am on a Sunday morning. In fact the show looks so good that the Army brass should hope that budget-slashing, pro-sequestration members of Congress don’t see our tax dollars at work.

Starting Strong might not be as high-profile as running “Be All You Can Be” ads during the Super Bowl but it might prove to be an effective tool for recruiters dealing with hesitant parents and help give borderline recruits some idea of what they’re actually signing up for. If you can’t find it on TV, you can watch the entire series here.

  • Rosalee

    “How can the United States Army appeal to a new generation of potential recruits

    You mean so they will be gung ho to go to yet another war, er, sorry, conflict, that is not

    • Navy boy

      Shut up. If it wasn’t for conflicts being fought, you and your family might be dead because of terrorist attacks. You should be grateful instead of being so selfish with your remarks bitch

      • Scott

        Nice way to respond; insults and name calling totally make you look mature and convince people of the truth of your assertions rather than actually using facts and reasoning. Yep…

    • Cadiz

      Explain exactly which war wasn’t won? Iraq fell in a week and Afghanistan in about a month. What happened afterwards had little to do with the military but was an entirely American political process. Unfortunately your politicians tried to solve a political problem by leaving the military to stay and establish a new government in each location which made no sense since that is not their jobs.

      • Scott

        The (2nd) Iraq war and the afghan war includes more than just the initial invasion and toppling of those countries’ regimes; it also includes the occupation and insurgencies that followed.

        Whether one thinks we won or lost would depend on how one defined “victory”, with what objectives had to be met; but this much is certain: both wars cost the U.S. trillions of dollars, thousands of american lives, tens of thousands of american wounded and maimed (including TBI, PTSD, etc.), as well as tons of international goodwill – permanently tarnishing the U.S.’s reputation and thus the willingness of other countries to cooperate with and help the U.S.

        And what did we gain? Further destroying two strategically unimportant and insignificant countries, that weren’t even a real threat to the U.S. anyways, and failing to fully destroy and dismantle the organization that was responsible for the 9/11 attacks (Al-Qaeda is still around).

        In summary, both wars have been a tremendous drain on finite and valuable American resources – resources that could have gone to actually making America safer, such as securing our borders, and because they were squandered, significantly contributed to the debt crisis we are now in – with little to show for the expenditures. The whole thing was, and is, a net loss and a travesty.

  • Leon Suchorski

    Why not just follow the lead of the Marine Corps commercials? They don’t seem to be having any trouble getting recruits, and their reenlistment rate is the highest of all of the branches of service.

    • ColdWarVet87

      That is right. Because they appeal to the straight American Male. It is tough and we don’t take anyone.

      • ron

        when you only have to put a few thousand in uniform instead of a few HUNDRED THOUSAND you can choose to be picky.

    • keith

      Not entirely true. the Marine Corps does not have the highest reenlistment rate of all branches of service. Of course they are not the smallest or the most selective either. They just want you to think that because it makes them more appealing that way.

  • jim belanger

    The problem is the Army has an identity crisis. Their moto changes every couple of years. They have lowered their standards and they continue to buy their recruits. They tailor to everyone of their soldiers as if they are civilians in uniform. When you make whinny cry babies then that is exactly what you get. Sound harsh but you are training these soldiers to be war fighters not civilians in uniforms. Cuz then they be like a bunch of well you get the point…

  • Chris

    More hype…… The Army always had a great motto, “This we’ll defend”. But like the uniform changes, it had to be updated, colored and perfumed…… A “Reality Show”? Come on, want a Reality show, watch the National Geographic series on the Stan….. This high dollar Madison Avenue informercial is a joke. Now instead of saying, ” I thought I was signing up just to go to College.” They will now be able to say, “I thought I was signing up to win a cruise.” ………Life is good in the Parallel Universe……”It never got weird enough for me.”

  • ron

    Yeah and I’m sure this “reality” show will highlight the days and nights of freezing/sweating your *ss off on 24 hour guard duty, 6 hours of picking grass out of cracks in the motor stables, emptying shipping containers and repacking them day after day. Room inspections in the barracks, formations just to have formations, APFT tests. Let see, trying to find the correct person to sign the correct form you need to get something done etc. Nope it will show flying in helicopters, riding in a tank, shooting a rifle. You know those things we get to do when our days are not filled doing the stuff mentioned above.

    • steve rogers

      I miss all that stuff….shoulda stayed.

  • luis

    this is fucking stupid iv been trying to join the military for year i have a ged and college and now they want more people

    • Wade

      I feel your pain man, I decided to join and got my GED when I was 19 only to find out its not “good enough”. Went to college and two and a half years later I finally went to basic. So it takes a little time, patience and talking to the right people to get there. It sucks I know but keep at it.

  • Steve

    What the military should do is show the kids in a college environment and a TI going, “In the new military, we wont yell at you, degrade you, you wont be to blame. Your peers will be. Join today and be apart of the kindler gentler, disrespectful ‘ask why’ force. Because it is mean to yell at you.”

  • Jacob Verett

    how can i get in direct contact with these people?

  • Bernita R


  • Don Shingler

    I am retired and living in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. 100%T&P. The Coast Guard ports here every once in a while. As a member of the American Legion Post here. We do ops with the men off the ships. Repair old age homes and handicap hospitals. Afterward we have lunch with the coasties. These are fine young men. Off the ship there is no rank, for they are in civilian clothes. Sitting at lunch after a work session I asked. Where is your ships commander? The young man next to me pointed to a fuss face young man to my left. 32 and the ships commander. I had been painting next to him all day. I am proud of the Military we have today. A fine example. The nondraft days are working.