WASHINGTON, April 26, 2013 – Not infrequently, the U.S. military has been ridiculed by soldiers and civilians alike for its pedestrian approach toward its training films and videos as well as its public service announcements (PSAs). Admittedly, like the average seatbelt and safety videos shown today aboard most departing U.S. civilian airline flights, you can only go so far to make short, instructional films seem at least marginally entertaining. But this is precisely the problem the military faces when creating videos outlining important do’s and don’ts for American fighting men and women both here and abroad.
As often as not, however, even though they serve a worthy purpose, military training videos and PSAs aired on military TV get panned for being limp, lame and hardly memorable. Yesterday’s edition of the Wall Street Journal Online elaborated on the issue:
“Military public-service announcements are legendary for hit-or-miss production values and scripts that often seem lifted from classroom scare films. Classic PSAs include exhortations to stay healthy while deployed (‘Make sure you wash your hands thoroughly before going into the dining facility’), steer clear of Christmas-tree conflagrations (‘Make sure to get a freshly cut tree’) and avoid hypothermia while swimming (‘¡El agua fría mata!’)”
Yawn-inducing video spots can become a real problem when you are trying to get across important but easy-to-overlook subject matter that can prove to be critical, particularly in the combat zone. And particularly to younger soldiers who have grown accustomed to more sophisticated production values when it comes to films, ads and programs.
Perhaps fearing that “the worst is yet to come” as the military winds down its presence in Afghanistan, the U.S. Army recently took a different approach. A cadre of Afghanistan-posted military journalists—journalists in uniform—decided to take a completely different approach in their current batch of safety, awareness and conduct-oriented PSA spots being broadcast to soldiers at the military’s substantial Afghan military headquarters operation at Bagram Air Field, deep in the heart of the Taliban’s Middle Eastern IED theme park.
According to the Journal, “Bagram now resembles a highly fortified strip mall—a brightly lighted, well-paved outpost of America, complete with posted speed limits and mandatory seat-belt regulations.”
Bagram and its environs are dangerous turf, indeed, and there is no room for laid-back lifestyles or petty crimes that might end up getting you and your buddies killed simply for not paying attention for a second or three. So who could be better at getting the notion of situational awareness across to a bunch of young GIs, thought local military journalists, than America’s reigning, most righteous Vigilante Warrior-in-Chief himself?
That’s right. Batman. The Dark Knight.
Or, since we are dealing with Afghanistan in this case, the closest cousin of Gotham City’s brooding Caped Crusader: Bagram Batman.
Bagram’s Dark Knight, clad in desert fatigues topped with an authentic Batman cowl and cape, is actually “Staff Sgt. Jesse Dyer, a 36-year-old Army broadcast journalist from Robbins, N.C.” according to WSJ. Looking to break the usual mold of lame PSAs, Dyer’s team of military journalists conspired to cast him in the role after discovering his passion for all things Batman, specifically the Batman so brilliantly portrayed in the recently completed, Frank Miller-inspired trilogy of “Dark Knight” films starring Christian Bale in the title role.
Dyer emulates Bale’s snarling, menacing approach to the role in his current series of PSA spots, donning an authentic replica of the actor’s distinctive movie costume. The new Bagram Batman spots began to air last month on the Freedom Channel, “an Afghanistan-specific American Forces Network channel,” according to WSJ, which notes that Dyer’s performance is getting positive reviews on base. “’He acts just as well as Adam West did,’ marvels Maj. Crispin Burke, an Army officer and military blogger, referring to the star of the original Batman movie and TV series in the 1960s.” Well, we guess that is a positive review.
The new spots did not only become an instant sensation in Afghanistan. Bagram Batman’s tagline to apologetic, erring soldiers—“SWEAR TO ME!”—soon went viral around the base.
And the YouTube versions of the videos are now going viral on the Internet.
We are presenting a few of these videos here for our readers to enjoy. So much has gone wrong in our world today that it is refreshing when you see something go right. Even if it is only a public service spot. The videos should also help us to remember the brave young soldiers who put themselves in harm’s way every day to keep America free.
Our first video is an informational news bit that explains the phenomenon of Bagram Batman.
Here is Bagram Batman reprogramming a soldier thoughtlessly lighting up an outdoor smoke precisely where he shouldn’t.
Hey, the behavior that follows can be dangerous stateside, too. Bagram Batman rescues an Army jogger whose earbuds are drowning out an important warning announcement.
Yeah, GI’s, like the rest of us, can stray from the path of righteousness from time to time. Here, Bagram Batman uncovers a solo five-finger discount operation at the local PX, and gently counsels the miscreant to go forth and sin no more.
Yep. This is Afghanistan. Even when you think you are safe on base, it is still a good idea to pack some military heat. (Does the Army call these “assault weapons”?) Bagram Batman explains the details in plain English in case you do not get it.
NOTE: There is apparently a Twitter parody of Bagram Batman online now, puckishly dubbed @BagramBatman. But Bagram Batman is now fighting back via his own handle, @IamBagramBatman. Twenty-first century warfare continues to evolve. So does the Dark Knight.
Read more of Terry’s news and reviews at Curtain Up! in the Entertain Us neighborhood of the Washington Times Communities. For Terry’s investing and political insights, visit his Communities columns, The Prudent Man and Morning Market Maven, in Business.
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