Fort Bragg soldiers whose goofy war-zone remake of a Lady Gaga video went viral over the weekend and soared to more than 3 million hits on YouTube have won a thumbs up from the brass.
"The brigade command team is happy to see that they also still have a good sense of humor and that morale is high," said Maj. Michelle Baldanza, a spokeswoman in Afghanistan for the division's 4th Brigade Combat Team via e-mail from Kandahar Air Field.
The soldiers have a challenging mission there, and they were just having a good time and "blowing off some steam in their downtime," Baldanza said.
They did that by cavorting - sometimes in makeshift costumes - to Lady Gaga's hit song "Telephone" inside what appears to be a garage at their southwestern Afghanistan base, livened up with little more than a couple of giant cardboard cutouts of telephones.
The ringleader was apparently Sgt. Aaron Melcher, who graduated from Gramercy Christian School in Newport in 2004, according to his Facebook page, and whose mother works for Duke University.
"Prepare yourself for a fantastical journey," Melcher wrote in an introduction to the video for YouTube. "Right now this is the temporary version, we have more scenes to cut, and edit, however with guys always on mission it is harder to film than you think."
On his Facebook page last week Melcher tracked the number of views the video was getting. Last Thursday, just after midnight, he wrote that the views had topped 8,000. Less than 10 hours later he checked in again: "Ok everybody ... this can be labeled INSANE now ... over 35000 hits ... and multiple news stations have the video."
Lady Gaga's version of the video features scenes in a women's prison and behavior that would clearly violate the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy. The biggest offense in the tamer paratrooper remake, though, is a skimpy, vaguely bikini-like outfit crafted of straps that Melcher flaunts while imitating a Lady Gaga outfit made of nothing but crime-scene tape.
Gaga is slender. Sgt. Melcher is many things, including enthusiastic and energetic. He is not, however, slender.