Marines Totally Want To Be Your MySpace Friend — And Recruit You

Military trolling for buddies in attempt to reach young people via social-networking site.

The Marines are always searching for a "few good men" (or women), but in their latest attempt to boost recruitment, the stone-faced few and proud just want to be your buddy. Specifically, your MySpace buddy.

Five months after its launch, the Marines have begun to see some solid results from their MySpace profile page, which, unlike the thousands of ones set up by bands that blast you with their music, opens with a video of Marine drill sergeants shouting orders at boot-camp recruits, who recite their credo while running through obstacle courses, shooting guns and practicing hand-to-hand combat amid images of waving American flags.

The site, which features a selection of downloadable Marine wallpaper, also has links to recruiters and, so far, boasts more than 13,000 friends with handles like Promiscuous, Leatherneck and Tha Rock.

The courting of the MySpace generation — the site now claims more than 96 million members — is a nod to the importance of tapping the potential of the Internet to reach America's wired youth, according to Major Wes Hayes, Marine Corps Recruiting Command spokesperson.

"The Marine Corps is always looking for new and innovative ways to make sure our target audience, young men and women ages 18 to 24, are informed about the Marines," said Hayes, adding that the reach into MySpace was not related to the kind of missed recruitment goals some branches of the armed services have experienced in the past few years (see "Army Recruitment Down For Fourth Consecutive Month"). "Our recruiting practices are the same during peacetime and wartime," Hayes said. "We are always very proactive and we do everything we can to meet or exceed our recruiting goals."

Given the string of highly publicized incidents involving child predators trolling MySpace to meet underage children (see "MySpace Restricting Adults' Access To Teen Users"), the Army pulled its banner ads from the site earlier this year, according to Louise Eaton, media and Web chief for the U.S. Army Accession Command. But the Army kept in touch with MySpace in the interim, and after the site recently issued new security guidelines and assured the Army that MySpace was more secure, the Army is prepping a return of the ads as well as a profile page. "The purpose [of the Army profile page] is to let young people know about the opportunities Army offers," Eaton said.

And why MySpace? "Because young people are there," she said. "We have to go to where young people are." The Air Force advertises on MySpace but doesn't have a profile page, and the Navy has no presence on the site at this point. The Army's profile page is being worked on now by its ad agency, and Eaton said it should be up soon.

Though Hayes said MySpace is a fine place to advertise and get the word out, the Marines would never sign someone up without meeting them in person, "knee-to-knee," first. The Marines MySpace page has a tab called "contact a recruiter" that takes you to the Web site, which prompts the potential recruit to fill out a form that sets up a meeting with a recruiter.

Hayes said since its launch, the Marines profile has gotten 500 responses (meaning someone clicked over to the page), with 200 panning out as "leads," or someone who is the right age and physically, mentally and educationally qualified for the service.

"The Internet is a very powerful tool and we see it as a new and innovative way to reach our target audience," Hayes said.