Former Marine Sgt. Paul Szoldra, a big fan of the satire newspaper The Onion, started a military equivalent. The Duffel Blog takes a funny look at military life and is run by "disgruntled Marines, annoyed Army guys and sickened sailors." (Photo courtesy of Paul Szoldra)
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Military Times releases ‘hit piece’ against popular military news site
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A fake military news site is doing such a good job of lampooning the service, it's already duped some officials into thinking their breaking news is real.
Former Marine Sgt. Paul Szoldra, from Lakeland, Fla., runs http://www.duffelblog.com/">The Duffel Blog, the military's equivalent to the satirical newspaper, The Onion. He has about 20 writers regularly contributing stories on a volunteer basis from the Army, Navy and Marine Corps.
"I guess airmen just don't have anything to complain about," he said, jokingly about the site's lack of Air Force contributors.
The stories on The Duffel Blog are never real and are often ridiculous. But Szoldra, a 28-year-old college senior, and his contributors mimic the look of real news stories very well. When a story announcing a Defense Department http://www.duffelblog.com/2012/05/citing-opsec-fears-dod-bans-tapout-clothing-for-all-military-personnel/">ban on Tapout apparel for all troops went up, some people got pretty upset.
"What the hell man, this is ridiculous," one reader commented.
Szoldra said an official at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington received at least one phone call from a service member miffed about the ban on his favorite mixed martial arts gear, not realizing it was all meant in jest.
Tony, who requested his last name not be used, is a 36-year-old sergeant in the Army Reserve and one of the blog's writers. He studied English in college and was inspired to write for Szoldra's site after he saw people like him contributing.
"These were people with a background like mine, who understood what makes people in the military laugh," he said. "It gives service members the ability to laugh at some of the more outrageous, stupid and sometimes more serious issues of the day."
Tony, who has served for seven years and deployed to Iraq in 2008, said the blog can be a good outlet when dealing with some of the more frustrating aspects of military life.
Army Dave, another contributor to the site, is a former soldier turned law student. He said some things in the military just never change, so there's never a lack of subjects to write about.
"I really do believe that a guy who was in the Army in the 1950s could write the same stories we're writing right now," he said.
Szoldra and Tony said their growing audience, along with the success of the Marine-themed "Terminal Lance" comic strip, shows that there's an appetite for a humorous, but clever, look at military life.
Szoldra was a mortarman and a combat instructor during his eight years in the Marine Corps. When he got out in 2010 and transitioned to college life at the University of Tampa, he found the change to be jarring. He started a website to help others making the switch from combat zone to classroom called http://www.collegeveteran.com/">CollegeVeteran.com.
In an attempt to boost traffic, Szoldra had the idea to add some fake military news. So he posted a story about a colonel in the Air Force who was so sick of the "Chair Force" nickname that he banned all chairs on base. The story was a hit, but he was worried people would think his college veterans site was a joke, so he separated the two in March, and The Duffel Blog was born.
About five months later, the blog has more than 8,500 fans on Facebook and about 1,200 Twitter followers.