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As far as the Department of Defense is concerned, if you want to perform high-wire stunts or let tarantulas crawl on your face on national TV, that’s your choice, but you’ll have to do it on your own time.

Responding to interest in a special edition of the NBC reality show “Fear Factor” — set to feature active-duty servicemembers who’ve been downrange — Army officials last week circulated an internal memo to clarify soldiers’ eligibility to appear on the program.

The memo passes along information culled from a DOD-wide regulation governing “Participation In and Support Of Television Game Shows and Reality Programs,” which states that servicemembers are allowed to appear on non-DOD-sanctioned reality shows, but not as official representatives of the military.

Because the “Fear Factor” program will not be a DOD-supported show, the memo reads, military members have to take leave to participate, cannot wear uniforms during taping and can’t invite NBC cameras onto U.S. installations.

The policy also urges servicemembers to consult with legal and ethical counselors about whether they would be able to accept $50,000 in prize money offered by the program in the case of a win.

The military does occasionally endorse programs and cooperate with game shows, said Phil Strub, DOD special assistant for entertainment media. But an informal conversation with his colleagues about whether “Fear Factor” would be one OK’d for troops was over pretty fast.

“Probably less than a minute,” he said. “It’s just not something that holds any appeal to us.”

Over three weeks in November, NBC producers plan to tape a show on the decommissioned USS Hornet in Oakland, Calif., featuring servicemembers who have downrange experience.

The show has called for pairs of contestants such as siblings, spouses or couples from all theaters and all branches with at least one active-duty member who has been deployed, the show’s executive producer, Matt Kunitz, said last month.

But while the DOD is not actively supporting the “Fear Factor” episode by combing its ranks for volunteers to gobble pickled cows’ eyes or swim with snakes, the military didn’t turn the show away, either, Strub said.

“Fear Factor” didn’t ask for official support, a common request from reality show producers, Strub said.

“No one came to us. We didn’t issue anything in particular to ‘Fear Factor,’” he said.

Despite the lack of DOD enthusiasm, Kunitz said the show isn’t having problems finding potential contestants.

“We are surprised that the DOD has an issue with ‘Fear Factor,’ one of the most popular family shows on television, honoring soldiers that have served time in Iraq,” he wrote in an e-mail to Stars and Stripes on Tuesday. “We have had no shortage of applicants and are looking forward to filming this special military episode of ‘Fear Factor.’”

American Forces Network airs “Fear Factor” at 8 p.m. CET on Fridays on AFN-Atlantic.


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