VR goggles and an Amazon-like recruiting website: Inside the next generation rebrand of the US Army

"We Stand Ready"

The Army has been taking "new year, new me" to the next level.

There seems to be a massive rebrand underway; In addition to the Army bringing back it's snazzy-as-hell Army Greens, they're developing new commercials and a new GoArmy website, according to Col. John Oliver, the Army Marketing & Research Group's deputy director.

Different from say, the Marine Corps, the Army's advertising campaigns haven't been as consistent in the messaging.

"The Marines' advertising works for the Marines, because they have a very specific mission set and a very specific service and a very specific need for how they recruit," Oliver said. "Our advertising has to work for our service. … If we don't take what they Army is and communicate it in a way that speaks to each generation, in a way that they want to be spoken to, then we're just never going to get there with our recruiting mission."

All of this has to be done in a way that speaks to the Army's three core target groups: Potential soldiers, influencers, and the internal Army. The problem is, those three groups all want to see something different.

In previous advertising campaigns, the Army focused on the different career paths in the Army, honing in on the STEM field, and even advertising the bonuses available to soldiers. This tested well with influencers and potential soldiers, but current soldiers weren't interested.

But senior leaders said they wanted fewer "guys in lab coats," and a little more action, Oliver told Task & Purpose. Then came the current Warriors Wanted campaign — fast-paced, combat-heavy commercials that Oliver said tested really well with the internal Army, though they were "turning moms off a little bit."

Now, senior leaders say they want to go back to advertising the other non-combat jobs the Army has to offer.

Army Maj. Gen. Frank Muth, head of Army Recruiting Command, told Task & Purpose in May during an event in New Hampshire that the Army is undergoing "a renaissance," and "coming out of the industrial age of recruiting into the digital age."

One of the easiest ways to see that is the #InOurBoots campaign — a 100% digital and social campaign that uses virtual reality to put potential recruits in the (virtual) boots of a real soldier.

Task & Purpose got the chance to test out some VR goggles that dropped me into the boots of 2nd Lt. Charlotte Levine, a platoon leader and one of the first female tank commanders in the U.S. Army. When wearing the headset, it's like you're standing in her M1 Abrams tank — you can look to your right and left, and see two other tanks firing.

Eventually, the goal is to have a VR experience for every career track in the Army, Oliver said, so recruits can get a better idea of what it would be like to be in the job they want.

In our Boots: Tank Commander www.youtube.com

Recently, the Army has switched over to a new marketing firm, DDB Chicago, which Oliver says is "full of energy" and packed with ideas on how to develop the Army's image. And while he couldn't disclose everything DDB was working on — "we want some things to remain a surprise" — they're looking at capitalizing on pop culture phenomenons, like superhero movies.

"It's something that we think will resonate, because these are things that are really popular," Oliver said. "The Avengers: Endgame was like, second most-valuable movie ever, right? So if we can capitalize on things that are already going on in America, and become a part of that conversation, then maybe the message will resonate a little bit more."

There will also be a complete overhaul of the Go Army website in the next year — think Amazon suggestions, but for the Army. Oliver said they want to have an algorithm that picks up the kinds of things you're interested in, and displays them on GoArmy.com.

For example, if you've been googling for financial aid and scholarships for college, the ideal GoArmy.com home page would display financial assistance available to a potential recruit.

In the short-term, DDB is going to be evolving the Warriors Wanted campaign, and growing it to show things like off-duty time, family life, and other aspects of the military. Oliver said there will be a new campaign out later next year.

In May, then-Army Under Secretary Ryan McCarthy told Task & Purpose that the challenge with marketing for the service is that soldiers do so many different things, it's difficult to capture everything in such a short few minutes.

"In the deepest peril in the history of our country, the Army stepped up and dealt with all those challenges. So to serve in the institution, you are the last defenders of everything we hold dear," McCarthy said. "There's a variety of options and things that can be done because there's really not much that isn't asked of us."

SEE ALSO: This 1980s Army Commercial Is The Hottest Thing To Come Out Of The Cold War

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My brother earned the Medal of Honor for saving countless lives — but only after he was left for dead

"As I learned while researching a book about John, the SEAL ground commander, Cmdr. Tim Szymanski, had stupidly and with great hubris insisted on insertion being that night."


Editor's Note: The following is an op-ed. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Task & Purpose.

Air Force Master Sgt. John "Chappy" Chapman is my brother. As one of an elite group, Air Force Combat Control — the deadliest and most badass band of brothers to walk a battlefield — John gave his life on March 4, 2002 for brothers he never knew.

They were the brave men who comprised a Quick Reaction Force (QRF) that had been called in to rescue the SEAL Team 6 team (Mako-30) with whom he had been embedded, which left him behind on Takur Ghar, a desolate mountain in Afghanistan that topped out at over 10,000 feet.

As I learned while researching a book about John, the SEAL ground commander, Cmdr. Tim Szymanski, had stupidly and with great hubris insisted on insertion being that night. After many delays, the mission should and could have been pushed one day, but Szymanski ordered the team to proceed as planned, and Britt "Slab" Slabinski, John's team leader, fell into step after another SEAL team refused the mission.

But the "plan" went even more south when they made the rookie move to insert directly atop the mountain — right into the hands of the bad guys they knew were there.

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Conflict photographer Lynsey Addario's seen a hell of a lot of combat over the past twenty years. She patrolled Afghanistan's Helmand Province with the Marines, accompanied the Army on night raids in Baghdad, took artillery fire with rebel fighters in Libya and has taken photos in countless other wars and humanitarian disasters around the world.

Along the way, Addario captured images of plenty of women serving with pride in uniform, not only in the U.S. armed forces, but also on the battlefields of Syria, Colombia, South Sudan and Israel. Her photographs are the subject of a new article in the November 2019 special issue of National Geographic, "Women: A Century of Change," the magazine's first-ever edition written and photographed exclusively by women.

The photos showcase the wide range of goals and ideals for which these women took up arms. Addario's work includes captivating vignettes of a seasoned guerrilla fighter in the jungles of Colombia; a team of Israeli military police patrolling the streets of Jerusalem; and a unit of Kurdish women guarding ISIS refugees in Syria. Some fight to prove themselves, others seek to ignite social change in their home country, and others do it to liberate other women from the grip of ISIS.

Addario visited several active war zones for the piece, but she found herself shaken by something much closer to home: the Marine Corps Recruit Depot at Parris Island, South Carolina.

Addario discussed her visit to boot camp and her other travels in an interview with Task & Purpose, which has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

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An Army staff sergeant who "represents the very best of the 101st Airborne Division" has finally received a Silver Star for his heroic actions during the Battle of the Bulge after a 75-year delay.

On Sunday, Staff Sgt. Edmund "Eddie" Sternot was posthumously awarded with a Silver Star for his heroics while leading a machine gun team in the Ardennes Forest. The award, along with Sternot's Bronze Star and Purple Heart, was presented to his only living relative, Sternot's first cousin, 80-year-old Delores Sternot.

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U.S. special operations forces are currently field testing a lightweight combat armor designed to cover more of an operator's body than previous protective gear, an official told Task & Purpose.

The armor, called the Lightweight Polyethylene (PE) Armor for Extremity Protection, is one of a handful of subsystems to come out of U.S. Special Operations Command's Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS) effort that media outlets dubbed the "Iron Man suit," Navy Lieutenant Cmdr. Tim Hawkins, a SOCOM spokesman, told Task & Purpose on Wednesday.

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