Two weeks ago, the Army’s official recruiting website released a series of animated advertisements showcasing the stories of several soldiers on their journey to join the nation’s oldest branch.
One in particular features Cpl. Emma Malonelord, a soldier raised in California by two moms.
Since its upload to YouTube, however, this video’s comment section has been disabled. It currently has nearly a million views, 36,000 dislikes and only 775 likes.
“Beginning May 12 we started noticing a significant uptick in negative commentary,” Laura DeFrancisco, public affairs chief for the Army Enterprise Marketing Office, told Army Times. “The comments violated our social media policy and were not aligned with Army values. Out of respect for the safety and wellbeing of our soldiers and their families, we have disabled the comments.”
Hers is one of five stories selected by the branch for recruiting advertisements under the series, titled “The Calling.”
“The Army conducted a worldwide search across the forces for Soldier stories to support the campaign, receiving nearly one hundred inspiring entries,” according to a release.
“After settling on a shortlist of potential candidates, stories were tested to assess their resonance with today’s youth,” the release added. “The final ‘cast’ provides a rich tapestry of stories that represent the diverse upbringings and life experiences that make up today’s Army.”
This afternoon, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, responded to a tweet about the ad campaign, which compared Malonelord’s recruiting ad to that of Russian soldiers, remarking, “Holy crap. Perhaps a woke, emasculated military is not the best idea....”
The comment section for Malonelord’s story on Facebook, however, is still live.
“This video is getting absolutely ratioed on YouTube, to the point that they ended up disabling the comments section,” wrote user Ezio Per.
Request for comment has not yet been returned by Malonelord.
Brig. Gen. Patrick Michaelis, deputy commander of U.S. Army Recruiting Command, acknowledged recently that the recruiting environment for new soldiers has been “challenging,” in part because of the political environment across the country.
“It is because of the effects of COVID, [and] because of the effects of the political discourse and the discussions going on in our country today,” Michaelis said May 5.
Michaelis did not elaborate when pressed at the time, except to say that it’s up to Army leaders to “remain apolitical” so military service continues to be “an option for today’s youth.”
The newest ad campaign attempts to appeal to a younger and more diverse demographic by spotlighting soldiers like Malonelord, as well as a first-generation immigrant from Haiti and a second-generation immigrant from the Dominican Republic.
How exactly the political climate will impact Army recruiting in the long-term is unclear. But service leaders say they’re confident they can continue to meet their modest end-strength proposals that grow the force by only about 1,000 troops per year.
Sarah Sicard is a Senior Editor with Military Times. She previously served as the Digitial Editor of Military Times and the Army Times Editor. Other work can be found at National Defense Magazine, Task & Purpose, and Defense News.