By Catherine Donaldson-Evans, ,
Published May 21, 2015
Constant moves and long, dangerous deployments overseas can make having a personal life "Mission: Impossible" for military singles.
But in this online age, patriotic lonely hearts can turn to dating Web sites to find true love.
"We're the Cupids of the military world right now," said Donald Hobbs, marketing director of DatingTech Network (search), which runs usmilitarysingles.com and others catering to those in the service.
Usmilitarysingles.com, which is not administered by the military but does operate with its approval, is for both military personnel and civilians who want to meet them. It works similarly to other matchmaking sites (search): members can browse the posted profiles and receive e-mails from potential love interests for free but must pay a month-by-month membership fee ($19.95 for one month) if they want to initiate the contact.
Hobbs said there are 325,000 members worldwide, with 300 new ones signing on daily -- a 20 percent monthly growth rate. But the site is not for the casual dater -- it's for those wanting something more serious.
"We are very focused on people only looking for relationships," Hobbs said. "We scan every profile for sincerity and what people are looking for."
DatingTech Network also runs armysingles.com, navysingles.com, airforcesingles.com and marinecorpssingles.com, Hobbs said.
Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col Ken McClellan (search) said he'd never heard of usmilitarysingles.com or the others and declined to offer an opinion because they're commercial entities.
"The fact that it serves our people is theoretically a positive, but the fact that it targets our people could go either way," McClellan said.
Hobbs said the site is "extremely privacy- and security-focused." In addition to using encryption for personal data like credit card information, DatingTech also screens profiles and photos to make sure they're clean and from people who want real relationships. Anything that isn't above-board will not be posted, Hobbs said.
"We are more G-rated than 'The Little Mermaid,'" Hobbs said. "People who just want to play around are suspended or deleted immediately. We're strict and it creates a very good environment because they know we're policing the site constantly."
Security issues aside, relationships are a tricky business for those in the service because of the military lifestyle.
"It's very hard to meet somebody," said Fox News military analyst Maj. Bob Bevelacqua. "It's tough when you come home from a long deployment and have nobody to come home to."
And these days the relationship landscape is much different than it was in the past, when the draft was still in place and servicemen tended to be single. Currently the ratio of married to single personnel is about 50-50, Bevelacqua said.
But military marrieds often have it tougher than singletons because of the extended, deployment-driven separations.
"More than half of marriages don't make it," said Bevelacqua, whose first, seven-year marriage didn't work out because of his military career. "It's a real test of your marriage. Being single and in the military is much easier."
Bevelacqua spent most of his time in the military married but part of it single and said the two situations didn't feel all that different.
"You spend so much time away from your spouse that you don't have the same sense of marriage," he said. "It's a strange situation. Most of the guys are married but 'single,' if you know what I mean, and many women at home become 'single' as well."
Still, sites like usmilitarysingles.com cater to hopeless romantics who'd like to beat the odds and make a military relationship work.
"It's gotten to be a big mix of all kinds of people who want to meet or date people in the U.S. military," Hobbs said. "We get people married just about every week."