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November 29, 1987|Christine Ziaya

If you watch TV football, you must have seen the Army's "Promises Kept" spot a zillion times. You know the one--coming out of class, a young co-ed tells a male student that she used to be in Airborne. The commercial ends with the kid awed: "You used to jump out of airplanes?"

But are women zooming to their neighborhood recruiting offices wanting to be Army flygirls?

Well, said Lt. Col. John Cullen, an Army advertising public affairs spokesman in Chicago, a 1986 survey showed that not one enlistee--female or male--listed Airborne as their reason for joining. But since the Army has only one such division--the 82nd Airborne--opportunities are limited.

Of 14,000 assignments in the 82nd, most are infantry-related, leaving few open to women since, by law, women are forbidden to serve in the infantry. There are only 135 women in the Airborne, each of whom is required to make one jump a month.

Boasted Maj. Mike Nason, public affairs officer for the 82nd at Ft. Bragg, N.C.: "The division never has trouble filling a position. We fill it in a heartbeat. When they re-enlist--both men and women--the 82nd is a sought-after assignment."

The Army doesn't keep numbers on how many GIs want to transfer to the division, but last year alone, 783 women graduated from the Army's three-week Airborne class--more than enough to fill the 60 positions for women that became available that year.

So if the Army doesn't need any more Airborne personnel, why the commercial? "The message is that the college Army fund got her there (to college)," explained Fred O'Donnell, L.A. area chief of advertising and public affairs. "The fact that she was in the Airborne is secondary." The relatively obscure division is mentioned merely to let potential recruits "know the opportunity is there."

The real Army target: males age 17-24. The Army spends $100 million annually on ads, $21 million of it for TV time--with women rarely featured.

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