The U.S. Navy appointed a non-binary drag queen influencer as its digital ambassador to appeal to a "wide range of potential candidates" amid a military recruiting crisis, a Navy spokesperson told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
Yeoman Second Class Joshua Kelley, an active-duty sailor who dresses in drag and goes by the stage name Harpy Daniels, announced on social media in November that he had been invited to be the first "Navy Digital Ambassador."
According to a Navy spokesperson, the ambassador program ran from October 2022 to March 2023 and was "designed to explore the digital environment to reach a wide range of potential candidates" amid "the most challenging recruiting environment since the start of the all-volunteer force."
The Navy is currently evaluating the program to determine the future of the initiative.
The spokesperson added that neither Kelley nor any other ambassador was compensated for participating in the program.
Kelley, who describes himself as a "non-binary sailor & queen," told his social media followers that he has had "an unbelievable experience" since joining the military.
"From joining to 2016 and being able to share my drag experience on my off time with my fellow sailors has been a blessing," Kelley wrote.
Kelley told the USS Constitution Museum that he performed in drag for a "morale-boosting" lip sync competition while on deployment on the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan in 2017 and 2018.
"Knowing this was a regular event, I decided to bring my drag during the deployment because lip syncing and impersonations are a prime performance we do as entertainers. For myself, drag has been a passion, an art, and a way to express myself. The importance of the lip sync event was to raise morale, give us some joy and entertainment," Kelley told the USS Constitution Museum.
According to Kelley's social media announcement, he was "hand selected as one of four" digital ambassadors for the Navy.
Kelley added that his experience has encouraged him to "continue being an advocate and representation of queer sailors."
In fiscal year 2022, the Navy met its active-duty enlisted recruitment goals by depleting its Delayed Entry Program pool to the lowest level in 40 years, the Navy Times reported.
According to the Navy's 2024 budget proposal, the military branch plans to continue to review its recruiting efforts to address the shortage issue.
"To attract the most talented and diverse workforce, the Navy continues to evaluate its compensation package and admission requirements, and how it reaches potential recruits through advertising and career events," it stated.
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