Surviving Basic Training

Kevin Kelley_army guy CBS

It seems as if everyone's trying to cash in on the popularity of CBS' Survivor: The Australian Outback — including the U.S. military. On Wednesday, The Early Show's Jane Clayson interviewed Colonel Kevin Kelley to find out how the army is using new media to reach out for new recruits.

Army officials have launched a website — www.goarmy.com — that allows users to follow six recruits as they try to survive nine weeks of basic training, reports The Early Show's Co-anchor Jane Clayson.

Colonel Kevin Kelley, who spearheaded the Army's Internet project, explained the reasoning behind the Webcast. "The idea of reality programming has caught on with America. We decided to try it with reality advertising and showcase young Americans going through the transformation of becoming soldiers."

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Clayson expressed reservations as to how much of an "incentive" this would be and wondered whether the program would backfire and "scare people away."

Kelley disagreed. "We think what it shows is the reality of people doing something that they never thought they could do. And when they see that and they see the people that are doing it are people that they like to be around, the people they would aspire to be like, they really are drawn to it."

Hits to the army's site are up significantly, since the Webcast series, featuring the trials and tribulations of recruits Michelle, Ever, Richard, Jermaine, Ben and Alice, began.

"Before the series started running, we were getting 14,000 visits each day. Now, we're up around 30,000 visits each day," said Kelley. "Last Saturday, we had 40,000 visits, which is really significant for us."

And the new advertising already is paying off.

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"One of the people from the production crew was telling me this morning that one of their friends had been following the series and decided to enlist," Kelley told Clayson.

The candidates for the Webcast were selected to show the "diversity of Americans who come into the Army," Kelley said, adding, "they're typical of anyone who comes into the Army."

Camera crews follow the recruits on a daily basis. They're shown getting gas mask training, fighting, and on the bayonet course. And as with Survivor "cast members" talk to the camera about what they're thinking and going through. "We're showing the whole story. People can go to goarmy.com and find out what it is really like to go through basic training," Kelley said.

Asked if the Army was watching Survivor to get any tips on any "challenges" that they might adopt, Kelley replied, "We keep our eye on it. The whole idea of this reality programming has caught on and we think it works well for us."


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