Military Combat

Combat Arms Channel

How the US Army Soldier Decided To Join YouTube and Created a Video That Hit Ten Million Views.

Military Combat
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February 7, 2021

Who are you and what kind of content do you create?

Howdy! I am Theo from Combat Arms Channel. Reading the channel name, you can probably figure out I am in the military. Haha. I am a prior Marine and current active duty US Army Soldier (currently stationed in South Korea). I like to share my military experiences and provide some specific insight and points of view on interesting military videos I find online. With the incredible support I’ve gotten so far, it would be amazing to make YouTube videos full-time, but staying in the military will keep the charm to my channel, haha. 

I love the military and sharing what I’ve learned with those aspiring to join the military, those currently serving, veterans, and anyone who happens to find the military interesting! Due to the nature of the reaction videos I do now, I generally do videos by myself, but I love doing the occasional collaboration with other military folks. It helps to add another point of view on specific topics.

The idea of Combat Arms Channel came from my infantry background, and I thought it matched exactly what I wanted the channel image to be. Some joke about the channel name refers to my bicep size, but I’m not that clever! My original channel name was SgtB0yr13 (my last name, Boyrie, but more obnoxious, haha). It didn’t help much for the channel’s branding, so I changed it and never looked back!

Let's go down memory lane, tell us your backstory! 

My channel started way back in 2008. Honestly, it feels like a lifetime ago. It started in my backyard in New Jersey with a few toy guns, some bad army costumes, and a Canon Powershot digital camera. Now, I had a YouTube account for a few months, but when I realized I could just borrow my mom’s camera, record a video, and upload it, I could become a YouTuber! For the first few years as a “YouTuber,” I made content ranging from nasty action scenes using my toy guns, action figure reviews, random vlogs. Now I need to say, I was just a cringy high school kid, so I had all the time in the world, haha.

There was not much pressure back then as I wasn’t making anything from YouTube, so I focused on experimenting with different video ideas. This flourished into some sick editing and photoshop skills that I use even today! I invested a bit in improving my video quality and worked to up my videography skills. Of course, as my original channel name and content suggested, I was passionate about joining the military, so that’s what I did!

I joined the Marine Corps Infantry in 2012 (I was in a Marine Corps uniform a week after graduating high school, haha). I still loved to document my life and my training, so that's what my videos focused on. I invested in a GoPro Hero 3 action camera and used it to record my infantry training. I still didn’t have a theme in mind for my channel, as I did the occasional vlog, but I was inspired to do every kind of video I could. I grew up watching several YouTubers like the Yogscast, Tobuscus, PewDiePie, Smosh, Corridor Digital, and ScoutTheDoggie. They helped me step out of my comfort zone for videos and inspired me to put time and energy into learning editing and content creation. 

After I switched from the Marines to the Army, I focused a bit less on being a testosterone-fueled savage and more on hobbies. And YouTube was certainly a hobby I loved to invest my time in! Once I started doing reaction videos, I realized I could educate myself while learning to entertain others with commentary and the occasional bad joke, haha.

How do you brainstorm ideas for your content and your advice in getting the creative juice flowing.

Most of the videos I react to are recommended by the great fans in the comments section! I love being able to check out what others are passionate about while learning more about other militaries and other countries. I admit I did not know much about other countries since I didn’t learn about them in school or interact with them in the military. The videos I check out include training videos, military selection courses, or historical military operations. The events I hear about in the videos humbled me continuously, helping with my personal and professional development.

Of course, I like to dabble in other military-themed videos like military ration taste tests, outdoor gear reviews, gameplay videos, fitness videos, outdoor vlogs, and “story time” videos. It feels very natural to do these videos, as I’m passionate about all of them. It’s also extremely encouraging to have the fans recommend cool ideas I can facilitate. I’m always excited to record a new kind of video since it helps me grow as a content creator and person (since I’m still not the best public speaker, haha).

What are the tools and platforms you use to help with your brand?

I’m primarily just a YouTube kind of guy since that’s what I grew up knowing and understanding. I have an Instagram that is kind of a personal timeline tracker more than anything. I won’t say I haven’t tried other stuff like TikTok, Twitter, and Reddit, but GOOD GRIEF! I am not that entertaining, funny, or edgy, haha. I rely on my editing to help me keep things interesting or allow them to flow better. Again, I’m not the best public speaker since I often get tongue-twisted, don’t know how to breathe enough when I talk or get flustered, trying to think of a concise word. 

As far as editing software, I started with Windows Movie Maker, then moved to Sony Vegas, and now I primarily use Vegas Movie Studio. I’ve dabbled in other softwares like Davinci Resolve, but MY resolve wasn’t impressive when trying to learn those, haha. I used to use Microsoft Paint (old reliable) for my thumbnails, but since I took a class on Adobe Photoshop, that’s all I use now. I’m pretty quick with Photoshop, and it’s just got everything you need for photo editing. 

I get a lot of excellent recommendations for videos, so I always write them down. I use Google Docs to organize the ideas and categorize them. Once I get a few ideas, I put them on a schedule I made in Photoshop (I paste an image of the monthly calendar from Google and then write stuff in the boxes for each day). This works pretty well, but staying organized is a constant struggle. I’ve gotten very good at maintaining the list and schedule, but I’m still paranoid I might miss something and forget an upload. We’re only human (that is a copout for when I DO forget to upload a video, haha).

And of course, I started a Discord, and that is very cool to see and manage. I love the conversations everyone has in the Discord server, and it’s super encouraging to witness everyone acting mature and respectful.

What were your fears starting out? How did you handle it? 

That’s a good question, but my answer is going to be a bit dry, haha. To be honest, I was so young that I didn’t think about the backlash or negative thoughts. I was just super stoked I was able to record a video and upload it. The allure of starting a channel and producing “content” was too strong for me to think about the haters. I was surprised when my videos get viewed at all, honestly. 

Now, the haters did come, and that was to be expected considering the content was low quality, and the titles were very much click-bait, haha. I wasn’t upset seeing nasty comments. If anything, it was funny because I knew exactly what they meant. It didn’t discourage me, though. It just motivated me to invest in the channel when I could to increase quality. Some things, like editing, just took repetition and time.

My channel now is very different from what it used to be; in content and quality. Doing reaction videos was VERY threatening at the start. I’m not a good public speaker, but speaking to a camera makes it much more comfortable, haha. It took a few months to get confident for sure. I knew what I was saying, but I’m always self-conscious about voicing everything as concisely as possible while remaining unbiased and unpretentious, haha. I think I’m just hyper-aware of phrases that will catch someone's attention the wrong way, so I’m meticulous to avoid saying anything that sounds disingenuous or confrontational. I’m okay with sparking debate, but sometimes words just get misconstrued, you know? I guess that’s my biggest fear, haha.

How did you build your brand to where it is now, take us through your process.

I have to say off the bat; I struggled with branding. I used to do acting videos, review videos, vlogs, music videos, and everything else every YouTuber has done, haha. It wasn’t until I joined the military that my channel had a real theme to it, haha. As a result, I changed my original YouTube name from SgtB0yr13 (horrible for branding, haha) to Combat Arms Channel. Being an infantryman made it easy to work around that expertise to create a brand. It only took ten years to nail that! Haha.

Since I started my channel, I’ve been a one-person band, so sometimes funding and support got rough. I didn’t mind because it gave me full reign for creativity, and I appreciate that more than anything. Plus, I had a digital camera that was a tank (considering we fell on it multiple times and dropped it even more). My PC was sufficient for editing and rendering, so all the costs would come from upgrades. It was a bit harder in high school, but it was easy to facilitate the military’s necessary upgrades. 

Honestly, the most challenging part of creating my brand was keeping it well-rounded. Sometimes people negatively think of the military, but I was trying to reverse that a bit. This was done mainly by chilling in my videos, not showing favoritism, and explaining that the military is just like any other job. Once you accept that, you might start to appreciate the cool niche stuff my channel is focused on. But each channel will have a particular group of followers, so diversifying the content is probably the most formidable challenge (especially since the military is a very violent concept at the end of the day). There are cool things everyone can appreciate, and it shows through movies, video games, and even fashion, haha. Diversifying the content makes it easier for everyone to enjoy the channel, though.

It did take time (again, about ten years), but I saw traction with my reaction videos. I think it’s because I check out stuff from all over the world, so it gives everyone something to look forward to. I noticed this when I published a training video that got millions of views (which was unreal at the time), and I saw that many of the comments were from people abroad. The fact that people across the globe were watching my videos was so cool to me.

It’s much more fun and rewarding to have opinions from all over, so I used what I liked from other YouTubers to make the channel feel like more of a community. I think I’m doing an ok job at that so far, but I will be a bit limited since I’m still in the military, and my schedule is crazy. Since I’ve been going over 12 years doing YouTube as a one-person band, I’ll probably keep it that way, but hopefully, I can collaborate with more military buddies!

For someone who wants to get into content creation, what is your advice?

Consistency is key! At least until you get a solid following of people who are invested in you and the channel. I have many amazing fans who recommend some awesome video ideas, and it’s encouraging. It also keeps things exciting and unpredictable. But consistency and branding are vital, so people have an idea or concept to get behind initially. Get a cool username, get a sick logo and banner art, and keep those thumbnails familiar to the fans, so they can instinctively know it’s your video, haha.

 

My most significant shortfall with the channel was not creating that channel image. Or any at all, haha. Once you nail that, you just need to avoid controversy, hahaha. But seriously, if you can foster a community that feels like family and can get behind your videos, it will happen naturally, so don’t get discouraged early. It took me over a decade to get over 3,000 subscribers! 

Try to improve the quality when you can—no rush to go full professional YouTuber all at once.

Focus on enhancing thumbnails, small editing skills, titles, descriptions, and then move into more superior equipment. The small stuff will add up, and the fans will appreciate it when the content is more comfortable on the eyes, haha. Another thing to build up is your organizational skills and scheduling. I try not to record too much in advance to stay up-to-date with the fans and do relevant topics, but that schedule will keep so much stress off you. Plus, having a schedule and organizing will help keep you accountable for your content!

How did you finally commit to X platform rather than your regular day job?

Hmm, well, I am still active duty, so I CAN’T just commit to YouTube, haha. I’m also not sure it would be in the best interest, as I can stay-up-to-date and relevant by staying in the military and learning more. Now, I will say I dedicate 80% of my free-time to YouTube, but that’s easy for me because I love doing it. My channel allows me to learn about other countries, other militaries, cool equipment, history, and the experiences of those all over the place, and that is SUPER rewarding. It can get tricky with family, but as long as you make that balance happen, you will make life much easier for you and your family.

I don’t know if I’ll get out and make YouTube my full-time job. I would love to, but I have a lot invested in the military, and I love that too, so I think I’ll just “work” my butt off until I can’t, haha. But it is fascinating when you start to make the same amount you would make with your current job because then it REALLY becomes an option. 

Tell us your best milestones in being a content creator.

Ok, so uploading my first video was a pretty fun start, haha. Now, I will say the first time I got a video with several thousand views (probably around 2010), it was cool. Now that wasn’t considered viral, but it was very encouraging. But I have to say it was expected for some videos because I learned how important it was to upload on relevant topics or events. People are interested in things for short periods, which means views if you are the first to upload on that specific topic, haha. That’s more of the “science” of YouTube than the art. 

Now my first viral video was in 2018, and boy, that was wild. I had the video up for a few months, and suddenly, it went from a few thousand to a million views in about a month. Now it has over 10 million views and that is just bizarre to think potentially millions of people watched ME on YouTube, haha. After that, getting 100,000 subscribers was hard to wrap my mind around, but the community is fantastic, and I couldn’t be happier with its outcome so far. I think it just really helped my confidence feeling all the support, you know? Very cool.

What are your marketing strategies to grow your brand?

Once I changed my channel name and got a logo going, my priorities were to develop a few more ways for the fans to show their support. This was done with merch designs, the Discord server, and getting a PO Box. I think it’s cool to know people are willing to share pieces of their history or culture with a dude on the internet. Again, that’s super encouraging, and it helps to understand and bond with the fans! I think overall, staying honest with my expectations of the channel helps me out. I need to be self-aware of the quality of my videos before I expect anything from the fans. I’m here for them and they help me out, so it’s a mutual relationship. I don’t need to try hard to “hook” anyone in if they’re invested in the channel already. 

It does help a bunch when I get to collaborate with other creators, for sure. I have done many fun collabs with awesome creators like OriginalHuman, Chris Thrall, Gen Dit Commando, Bootneck Gamer, and more. It’s rewarding for me because they’re just cool people, but it helps me and the channel because the fans can learn the similarities and differences other military members experience. That learning and exposure help us all to be well-rounded, I feel. That is much more valuable to me than making a quick buck off someone else’s fanbase, you know? 

How do you handle brand deals and sponsorships? 

Now, something creators might be hesitant with is sponsorships or donations. I will say opening the option for fans to donate is preferred over advertising a product you may now believe in. I will feel bad just endorsing a product or service I don’t intend to use just to make a quick buck. I guess it’s the fear of looking like a “sell-out,” but I think I’m just fortunate enough to have a full-time job in addition to YouTube. It helps keep the financial pressure off. If a creator struggles with handling that, just ask if you feel good doing one thing or another, and you’ll be okay, haha.

I don’t judge other YouTubers for taking up the sponsorships that come their way, but I don’t need the money, so I have the luxury of passing that up. When a substantial sponsorship is locked down with a product I can support, I’ll not take that decision lightly, but I’ll undoubtedly hit it up if I feel the fans might genuinely be interested. 

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