They say there’s a first time for everything, but hailing an Army noncommissioned officer as the “future of Army leadership” for his TikTok videos is still something you probably never expected.
First Sgt. Joseph Starcher films “educational, motivational, and hilarious videos” during his “rare down-time” for social media site TikTok, according to an Army news release from December. It adds that as of December, Starcher “boasted nearly nine thousand followers.” The videos on his account include him showing off his new Army Green Service Uniform — ”Sometimes you have to check your drip,” the video says — as well as videos with leadership tips and jokes about military culture.
The notable part of this is not that a soldier is posting videos — plenty of them do — but that the Army is going out of its way to highlight a soldier for doing so. It’s even more interesting when considering that there were national security concerns in 2019 over service members using TikTok because of its China ties, and now, soldiers everywhere are posting videos in and out of uniform.
The release also gives a glimpse in how the military is changing its perception of social media. Katherine Kuzminski, the director of the Military, Veterans, and Society Program at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), pointed out that the military is typically only concerned with social media from a negative standpoint. There is no shortage of social media posts that have cast a negative light on the military — like the Fort Hood soldier who posted a video mocking sexual harassment, or the lieutenant who was given the boot for making Holocaust jokes — which typically draw the most attention.
But over time, there has been “a little more experimentation on the positive side of social media,” Kuzminski said.
“The news stories have always been about punishing people who use social media for nefarious reasons,” she said. “There wasn’t a strategic thought about, how might we use social media to engage?”
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