American Military Bonds Over 'My Little Pony'

In many offices, co-workers bond around their shared love for TV shows. They debate and revel in the latest episodes of "Mad Men" or "30 Rock." Still, it might be a little surprising to discover the TV show that members of the American military are bonding over: "My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic."

This year's class of pilots-in-training at Oklahoma's Vance Air Force Base shirked the skulls and scorpions of patches past, in favor of a pink homage to the cartoon series, reports

"It was kind of a fluke," Lt. Thomas Barger, spokesman for the 71st Flying Training Wing, told the Air Force Times. "During a slide show presentation while previewing the different patch options, the student presenter threw the 'My Little Pilot' patch design into the mix as an ironic joke. That patch made it all the way through the approval process and is even more ironic since the class never really wanted it in the first place."

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In the 1980s and 90s, "My Little Pony" was a popular TV show and toy line of pastel dolls with an intoxicating aroma of honeysuckle and PVC. Its 2010 resuscitation by Hasbro Studios spawned an enormous and unlikely Internet fanbase of mostly adult men, known as "bronies," who share their cultish appreciation in online forums and regular, elaborately costumed meet-ups (like the one pictured above -- Otakon 2011 in Baltimore). Bronies even created a commercial promoting their fanbase, and run their own charities, Bronies For Good and The Brony Thank You Project.

Members of our nation's armed forces appear to be some of the most enthusiastic acolytes of the Hub Network show. A Facebook page for military bronies has over 8,650 likes. A sergeant at Fort Carson in Colorado told The Gazette newspaper in Colorado Springs that there were around nine bronies at his base as of a few months ago, himself included. Last year's BronyCon Summer 2012 even offered a special lunch for service members, reports Military Times, and when the voice actress behind magical pony Twilight Sparkle paid a visit, the men erupted into her signature song "twilightlicious" (video below).

"If I had not found that show, I would have been so stir crazy, hating my life, being stuck in Texas," says one self-professed military brony in a YouTube confessional. "... But the way I keep myself going is I listen to the fan music while I'm out working.The music is inspiring."

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The show has stirred such passions among troops that the Military Times even ran an article on whether it's appropriate for airmen to wear their uniforms to Brony gatherings.

But whether or not it fits the image of the defenders of our skies, it makes the pilots better fighters, Barger told the magazine The Escapist. "Fostering camaraderie, morale and unity on a regular basis and through small means -- like a tastefully humorous patch -- enhances our ability to complete the mission when working as a team is essential," he said.

The show's themes of teamwork, optimism, and flying seem to strike a particular chord with our countrymen in uniform. Hub Network CEO Margaret Loesch, who was also an executive producer on the original 1980s series, told USA Today last year that she had received an email from a group of soldiers stationed in Afghanistan, who had discovered the show through their daughters.

"Even though it's a show designed for little girls, the theme of friendship and honor and integrity and the moral center has relevance to them," Loesch said. "That's pretty special."

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