Dancing Soldiers on YouTube: A Civilian's Guide to the Brave New Meme

In a dusty storeroom in Afghanistan, seven soldiers stand in formation. Lady Gaga is on the sound system. They dance. Videos like these from the frontline are a far cry from candid camera hazing rituals that usually grab the spotlight.

With their shirts off and tattoos blazing—in their uniforms and with AK-47s by their sides—these soldier chorus lines are silly, sweet, and unapologetically homoerotic. We can't get enough of them. (Or the gleeful off-camera giggles.)

EXHIBIT A: Gaga Soldiers of Afghanistan

Last week, the 82nd Airborne Division's version of Lady Gaga's "Telephone" went viral. 24-year-old Aaron Melcher and 23-year-old Justin Baker open with a bop on the nose, a stroke of the chest, and a jumping-jack-inspired pas de deux. Seven soldiers in spangly costumes perform Gaga and Beyonce's choreography in a storeroom. They clap their hands and nod to the beat. Melcher wears a crazy version of Lady Gaga's police tape bikini; Baker wears a pink sash reading "Drama Queen."

The femininity is hard to miss. (Dozens of DADT-joking commenters agree.) But the most captivating image from the Gaga Soldiers' send-up is ringleader Aaron Melcher dancing alone in his fatigues, hips swinging with carefree abandon. Even in a warzone, the simple pleasure of shaking your butt to a catchy tune perseveres.

EXHIBIT B: Soldier Ding Dong Song

If the homoerotic element interests you, look no further. In this video, the mortars of HHC 1-21 march, thrust, and grab each others' crotches while lip syncing, "Oooh, you touch my tra-la-la." Oddly enough, this is the only video I saw with a female soldier. (She doesn't do the dance.) When the boys break into an exuberant glow stick rave session at the end, we are reminded that, yes, these men really are as young as eighteen.

EXHIBIT C: The Workroom Cha Cha Slide

This video is a metaphor for the soldier dance phenomenon, in general. Bored while performing menial tasks, one or two dance music enthusiasts are unable to hold back their boogies—and their fun is infectious. Without breaking focus from their work, they begin to move in unison. Cha… cha… slide. This video is also proof that even the manliest of men—trapped in all-male settings for a long enough amount of time—will turn gay. It's a proven fact; just ask Christopher Hitchens about his all-male prep school.

I would be remiss if I did not now note how ridiculously hot the "Cha Cha Slide" men are.

EXHIBIT D: Marines Jump On It

The joy of dancing in a group is not unlike the pride of marching in step with your peers: a physical celebration of group unity. According to YouTube user cory23e, "field day was boring so we decided to dance." In drill formation with a leader standing in front, facing his troops, the marines pop and lock to Sir Mix-a-lot.