Stars "Enlist" to Spotlight Military
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 2, 2000 Because films like "Top Gun" attract young people's interest in the military, Defense Secretary William S. Cohen is enlisting Hollywood's star power to promote the armed forces.
For the past year, the Pentagon's top civilian leader and his wife, Janet Langhart Cohen, have been talking to top people in film, television and sports. They believe Tom Cruise, Harrison Ford, Robert DeNiro, James Brolin and other celebrities can help attract recruits.
Reconnecting America with the military is Cohen's overall goal. These prominent people, he said, can help deliver his message to the public: "We've got the finest military in the world. We want to keep them. We need your help."
While the Marine Corps traditionally meets its recruiting goals, the Army, Navy and Air Force are having a tough time filling their ranks, Cohen said during a Jan. 28 session with the Defense Writers Group. He said this is due to a "vigorous, dynamic economy," a smaller pool of people aged 18 to 26, and the lack of a "visible, identifiable enemy."
To meet these challenges, the military is enhancing its recruiting efforts and changing its advertising approach. "When I first looked at this, they were five-year contracts," Cohen explained. "That to me is much too long in terms of advertising agencies not having competition." And rather than buy one big ad on Super Bowl Sunday, he said, "we're trying to get more ads out in the field."
The military is also looking at new, high-tech ways such as e-mail to reach out and touch young people. "The Navy, for example, is setting up kiosks in various malls, putting in computers to allow young people to have access to not only computer games, but to have access to online information about the Navy," Cohen said. "We're trying to take advantage of this new, younger, very computer-oriented generation."
In late January, the Cohens spent time in Los Angeles talking with a dozen celebrities. They invited the entertainers to tour military bases and to record some public service announcements and messages expressing appreciation to the troops.
The Cohens also met with film producers Jerry Bruckheimer, who is doing a film on Pearl Harbor, and Steven Spielberg, who is doing a documentary on the Marine Corps. Cohen honored Spielberg at the Pentagon in August for directing "Saving Private Ryan," and promoting national awareness of the World War II generation's service and sacrifices.
While in Los Angeles, the Cohens also met with officials at Fox TV's NFL Sunday. "We're now trying to work out an arrangement where they will do a broadcast of NFL games from one of our carriers just before Christmas," the secretary said. Terry Bradshaw, Howie Long and Cris Collinsworth, the show's commentators, are eager to do it, he said. "They also want to go individually to visit with the troops."
In fact, Bradshaw volunteered to "re-up" for a second stint with the military. The former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback did his first-ever military tour in December.
"We called him up out of the blue and asked, 'Would you come with us on this trip overseas?'" Cohen recalled. "He said, 'Absolutely.' No one had ever asked him to do anything like that before."
Bradshaw, along with singer-songwriter Mary Chapin Carpenter, super model Christie Brinkley, comedian Al Franken, six Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders and several other stars signed up for Cohen's holiday USO tour to Italy and the Balkans. After three fast-paced days traveling aboard an Air Force C-17 and an Army helicopter, visits with thousands of fatigue-clad troops at five locations, including a stop in Bosnia, where there was 50 inches of new-fallen snow, Bradshaw declared he'd had "a blast."
On his next three NFL Sunday shows, Bradshaw wore a maroon military beret in tribute to the troops who presented it to him in the Balkans. The troops "loved it," Cohen said, "and it was a big morale boost."