Advertising Germany’s military as a success story is hardly an easy task — even if one ignores its troubled history.

Abroad, it is often perceived as a lightweight army, restricted by stringent rules and a decades-old political consensus that post-World War II Germany should exert its influence by diplomacy rather than force. Two years ago, the lack of funding for the Bundeswehr made international headlines when the army was so underequipped that soldiers had to hide the dearth of real arms by substituting broomsticks for heavy machine guns during a NATO exercise.

At home, youths have been wary of joining the army of a country in which even today few people find words of praise for those who serve.

That’s all supposed to change now, however, with the help of a new reality show, produced by the German military and aimed at recent high school graduates. “Die Rekruten” (“The Recruits”) follows 12 young Bundeswehr soldiers for three months. The YouTube series has been surprisingly popular among Germans, with some episodes reaching up to 900,000 viewers.

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