WASHINGTON – The Defense Department has added a new weapon to its public relations arsenal — YouTube postings — and it is proving to be a big hit.
American troops are shooting their own videos for the Pentagon to put on the Web site, and it has become one of the most subscribed links on the video Web site — No. 6 this week with more than 100,000 hits.
A video link known as MNFI, edited by the Multinational Forces in Iraq, aims to give a real "boots on the ground" perspective, defense officials said.
Among the images shown are an Iraqi kidnapping victim being released in Baghdad with the help of U.S. forces, soldiers taking fire in Baghdad and soldiers firing back on Haifa Street.
According to the U.S. military, the brainstorm idea was instituted to reach out to a younger more visually oriented audience, and possibly even help military recruiting efforts.
"Thanks for showing an average day at work. Bless these brave troops," one viewer wrote after a recent post.
Another video posted by the Marines named "Honor, Courage, Commitment" elicited this response from an Argentinian Web user: "I love you guys. Nobody think the same here in Argentina. Please tell me how I can join the USMC. I love the US forces."
The March 7 launch of this specialty site on YouTube comes at a time when the Army is stretched in terms of numbers. In an unusual move this week, 4,500 soldiers deploying to Iraq were told they would have to leave earlier than planned — in some cases 81 days before their usual one year rest at home between deployments.
As to the authenticity of the 62 videos currently posted, a military spokesman in Baghdad responds said they have "fairly stringent process in place to verify the authenticity of each posting."
"We went so far as to write up specific guidelines that must be adhered to before anything can be posted to our site. ...This effort is about telling our story," said Maj. Gen. William Caldwell.
Information technology analysts say the site is a good way to counter the "information jihad," the boost that groups like Al Qaeda in Iraq receive every time a news organization foxuses on the bombs exploding. But, it doesn't necessarily give a total view of events on the ground.
"A critic would point out, though, none of these videos offer anything that looks like the damage of warfare — there are no woundeds, there are no bodies, and so in that measure it has something of the feel of a video game to it," said Steven Livingston, an associate professor of media and public affairs at George Washington University.
FOX News' Jennifer Griffin contributed to this report.