Soldiers like you and me

Soldiers like you and me

Screenshot from the YouTube series "The recruits"

A week with the Federal Armed Forces web series "The recruits"

That’s it for now with the warship. "All in all it went quite well, I’m just unfit for boarding at the moment", reports Seaman Keitel contritely. Its wisdom teeth are causing it problems. Whether they will be taken will be decided in six weeks, and until then he will not be allowed to go to sea. "Bare history", sighs the young man with the red hair into the camera.

That’s just the way it is with the Bundeswehr. Everything is normal, somehow human, with people like you and me. At least that’s how the new reality documentary puts it "The recruits" which has been running every day for a week with a new episode on YouTube. For three months, the Bundeswehr shows twelve recruits during basic training. 1.7 million euros for the format, and another 6.2 million euros for the accompanying social media and poster campaign. All this is supposed to bring new recruits to the Bundeswehr (Bundeswehr wants to recruit with reality documentary).

"Your basic training as a web series" says the subtitle. And this you is also what makes the series: At first, the focus is not on the Bundeswehr, not on its history or its missions, but on the people who go there. Young people like Julia, Nathan and Jerome: These are three of the twelve recruits who are being accompanied by camera through basic training at the Parow Naval Technology School near Stralsund, without a script, as the Bundeswehr emphasizes. Recruits often film themselves, just as YouTube users do with their smartphones. This often looks primitive, but is supposed to create closeness: This is how you activate mirror neurons. The users recognize themselves.

Like at home

Therefore, Julia, Nathan and Jerome are also presented with their own home stories. At home, parents, siblings and grandparents are also there. "I would like to take my friend", says Julia and packs her things for departure. It is the "Biker Queen", because she likes to ride a motorcycle. The Bundeswehr has also come up with some supposedly cool names for the others, which should appeal to the youthful target group: Nathan is the "Family Guy", his family is more important to him than anything else. And Jerome is "The Checker": He is the cool one from Moers, he even has a "Habibi uncle", who goes with "Yo, yo, what’s up" digs.

The meta-message is clear: It’s guys like you and me who join the German armed forces. The potential recruits should recognize themselves and their friends. The concept of the home story is also familiar, tried and tested from countless reality series. Don’t be surprised if the Trodeltrupp suddenly shows up at Jerome’s and his family’s house or the cooking pros test the kitchen together with Frank Rosin.

Only when Jerome tells the camera to follow the recruits on Facebook does it become clear again that this is being filmed. Jerome, of course, says differently and adds: "I’m out for now, dig in, dude" to. That’s just the way the Checker talks. Otherwise he wouldn’t be a checker, dude!

New blood desperately sought

"The recruits" are not the first PR campaign of the Bundeswehr since the suspension of compulsory military service on 1 January 2009. July 2011. There was "We.Serve.Germany", the campaign came with "serve" and "Germany" still very statist therefore.

It followed "Do what really pays". Back then there were messages like "You can’t solve a crisis by waiting and drinking tea". Criticism was also taken up and turned around "We also fight so that you can be against us." Ultimately, however, the focus here was on his own career, and the corresponding website emphasizes the importance of the Bundeswehr as an employer.

But the targeted personnel strength of 170.000 soldiers the Bundeswehr has not reached yet. The "Recruits" direct. No PR campaign so consistently focuses on the potential candidates. The series begins with the journey, from the train station it goes by bus to the barracks. The recruits’ wheeled suitcases are rolling across the pavement, as you would expect – so here, too, it’s all business as usual.

First instructions drove to a small drama: "Now I have to take out all my piercings", moans Julia. The director doesn’t miss this, the scene is accompanied by sad music and repeated in the next episode. No question, the makers have learned their TV lesson: Drama, Baby.