WASHINGTON (Army News Service, May 31, 2013) -- "Man, that was a rush," said 19-year-old Julian Chavez, with a grin, after firing a machine gun from a helicopter on the ground as he trained with Soldiers at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.
After working with Army aviation mechanics, flying in a helicopter with Soldiers, and firing on targets, it was now up to the teenager from Portland, Ore., to make a life-changing decision: should he enlist in the Army or stay a civilian?
Chavez's story is featured in the first episode of "Starting Strong," a 10-part reality-style television series that follows young civilians, male and female, as they work side-by-side with real Soldiers in order to gain a better understanding of the Army.
After they've had ample time to see what Army life is really like, they decide for themselves if it's something they want to do.
The show, a partnership between the Army and Ricky Schroder Productions, debuted June 2, on 16 FOX affiliates across the country.
The new program is a long-form advertisement that gives an authentic "behind the scenes" look into the Army and some of its 150 military occupational specialties, said Alison Bettencourt, with the Army Marketing and Research Group.
The show is also a unique way to reach the 18-to-24-year olds who the Army would like to recruit, she said. Civilians in that key demographic generally skip over ads or aren't exposed to traditional advertising. She said the series also provides more information about the Army than is possible in a 30-second television ad.
Participants experience Army life first hand by working one-on-one with Soldiers. The potential recruits were selected through word-of-mouth, said Bettencourt.
"This is completely unscripted. There was not a casting call that was done, per se. We went to find people, not future Soldiers, not people that recruiters were working with, but civilians who had an interest and who met both the physical and moral standards in case they did decide to join," said Bettencourt.
Some participants did decide to join the military, others did not, she said. Those who did want to join were given a "cooling off" period, Bettencourt said, to ensure they weren't feeling any pressure to become a Soldier.
Participants worked in various fields or jobs, including civil affairs, combat engineer, food service, military police, infantry, air defense, forward observer and combat medic.
The episodes were filmed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.; Fort Bragg, N.C.; Fort Stewart, Ga.; and Fort Sam Houston, Texas.
The series will air Sunday mornings through August in a half-hour time slot on FOX affiliates in New York; Los Angeles; Chicago; Philadelphia; Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas; Boston; Washington, D.C.; Atlanta; Detroit; Phoenix; Tampa, Fla.; Minneapolis; Orlando, Fla.; Austin, Texas; Memphis, Tenn.; and Gainesville, Fla.
Full episodes will be available on GoArmy.com's YouTube channel. Five-minute webisodes will be available on www.GoArmy.com.
After all 10 episodes air, additional material, including pilot episodes, will be available on GoArmy.com's YouTube's page, said Bettencourt.
If the show is successful and has a good return on the investment, Bettencourt said, the Army will consider further episodes or other projects to attract and inform potential recruits.