American soldiers gyrating to Lady Gaga in a video spoof will not face any reprimand for their massive YouTube hit, the US Army said on Thursday.
The video by paratroopers in western Afghanistan dancing in a choreographed remake of Lady Gaga’s hit “Telephone” has attracted more than 3.5 million views and made a young sergeant an overnight online star.
While the amateur dance number bears no resemblance to the slick promotional videos the military uses for recruitment, army commanders raised no objections to their soldiers shaking their booty, a spokesperson said.
“The paratroopers involved were not disciplined at all for their actions,” Major Michelle Baldanza of the 82nd Airborne Division told AFP.
“They did nothing illegal, immoral or unethical and the video did not violate our operational security at all,” she said in an email from Kandahar airfield.
She added that “the brigade command team is happy to see that they (the paratroopers) also still have a good sense of humor and that morale is high.”
Sergeant Aaron Melcher (24) the mastermind behind the video, introduces the clip on YouTube with the words: “Prepare yourself for a fantastical journey.”
The scene is set
The video lives up to its billing, transforming seven soldiers into a farcical dance troupe offering a little relief from a grim war.
The stocky Melcher, who looks more suited to American football than mimicking a skinny pop star, steals the show as he grinds with abandon to the beat in a sweat-stained t-shirt and camouflage pants.
He pouts as he plays the role of Lady Gaga, and in another scene goes shirtless under a veiled hat, imitating the pop star’s get-up of yellow police tape. He joins six other comrades in various makeshift costumes, featuring black underwear and two big telephone cutouts on the wall.
The backdrop to the fanciful dancing and dressing up is a spare military outpost, with plywood walls, a dart board and a rifle propped up against the wall.
Unlike Lady Gaga’s raunchy “Telephone” video with Beyonce, the soldiers’ version is more innocent and no one gets poisoned.
Apart from sheer silliness, the video conjures up some of the boredom and isolation felt by the troops on long tours, as well as the camaraderie forged along the way.
The dancers’ day jobs
Melcher and his dance partners are mechanics who came to Afghanistan in August and are stationed at a remote forward operating base in western Farah province with the 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team of the 82nd Airborne, which is charged with training Afghan security forces.
When they are not making dance videos, the mechanics’ “primary job is fixing downed vehicles and keeping them maintained,” Baldanza said.
Interviewed on CBS television’s morning programme, Melcher said his wife was a big fan of Lady Gaga and that during a brief visit back home, he had watched the risque “Telephone” video.
He and a fellow mechanic “happened to be working on an engine in the motor pool, and we were thinking about something we could do to make some people smile back home, and I told them the Lady Gaga video was pretty hot, and we thought we’d remake it. That’s what you got.”
He said the overwhelming response to the amateur video has taken him and his fellow soldiers by surprise, but his commanding officers were fully behind it.
“Superiors back it up. It’s a morale booster over here, sir.”
Asked if the flamboyant pop star known for her bizarre costumes had spoken to the soldiers, Melcher said: “No, sir, we have not heard from Miss Lady Gaga yet. We are kind of hoping we would hear in the near future.”