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Here's chance to live warrior fantasy

An online essay contest offers five prizes: a few days in the one of the armed forces.

Fly a fighter jet, steer a 90,000-ton aircraft carrier or spend four expense-paid days at Marine basic training camp, buzz cut included!

These and other prizes await five winners in a fantasy career contest concocted by Yahoo Internet company and approved by the Pentagon as a way to boost recruitment.

"This is the experience of a lifetime," Navy Cmdr. Yvette C. Brown-Wahler said Thursday of the contest that runs from Saturday, the 50th anniversary of Armed Forces Day, through July 4.

"We all have fantasy jobs we'd love to try on," said Tanya Singer, Yahoo Careers home page producer. "This contest will bring people from the cubicle to cockpit, putting them in contact with jobs they may have only seen in the movies."

Each of the services will offer a prize: a chance to experience a day in the life of a soldier, sailor, airman, Marine or Coast Guardsman. Yahoo Careers, which lists more than a million job postings, has had such promotions before, offering the chance to test video games or ice cream flavors.

Pentagon officials hope the gimmick will catch the attention of potential recruits. Though recruitment efforts are faring better this year than last, officials say figures through last month still show the Army bringing people in at only 94 percent of its goal and the Air Force at 83 percent as the services continue losing ground to civilian jobs in the booming economy.

And Brown-Wahler said Americans need to know who the men and women in their armed forces are and what they do.

"This is a way for ordinary people, for Main Street USA, to connect with extraordinary people doing exciting, thrilling and challenging jobs while serving their country," she said.

Contestants must be U.S. residents 18 or older, complete an entry form, submit a resume and answer a simple essay question through Yahoo.

And being very physically fit will help.

The winner of the Marine contest, for example, "will be eating, drinking, swimming, living the Marine Corps experience," Brown-Wahler said. "You'll be crawling on the grass, you'll be running an obstacle course, you'll be firing their weapons."

Also, "You have the opportunity of getting a hair cut the first day," she said at a Pentagon briefing to roars of laughter.

The prizes being offered by the other services are:

AIR FORCE: Be an F-15 pilot for two days.

ARMY: Fly in an Apache helicopter, get flight simulator training and jump with the Golden Knights parachute team.

COAST GUARD: Practice search and rescue missions for three to four days, including rescue swimming and training aboard a Coast Guard rescue boat.

NAVY: Fly to an aircraft carrier and serve on it for two to four days, including a chance to steer the ship.

Winners will be announced in early August, and will have their Fantasy Career military experience in late August or September.

To enter, go to /fantasy/home.html.