Army to use gamers for recruiting.
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FORT MEADE, Md. -- Over 6,500 Soldiers are already hoping to be part of a
new Army esports team that will compete in video game tournaments nationwide
in an effort to attract potential recruits.

"It's essentially connecting America to its Army through the passion of the gaming
community," said Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Jones, NCO-in-charge of the
budding team.

About 30 Soldiers are expected to be picked for the team and some of the first
positions could be filled this summer. Only active-duty and Reserve Soldiers are
currently allowed to apply.

Those chosen will be assigned to the Marketing and Engagement Brigade for
three years at Fort Knox, Kentucky, where the Army Recruiting Command is
headquartered.

While they will not become recruiters, team members will receive a crash course
on Army enlistment programs to answer questions from those interested in
learning about the service.

Once built up, the team will fall under an outreach company that will also include
an Army rock band and a functional fitness team.

Not everyone on the team will compete. Those who will may train up to six hours
per day on video games, Jones said, adding that gameplay sessions would be
live streamed or recorded for spectators to watch.

Esports has ballooned in popularity in recent years with millions of followers.

In August, the Washington Post reported that esports could generate about
$345 million in revenue this year in North America. In 2017, a major esports
tournament in China also drew a peak of more than 106 million viewers --
roughly the same number of those who watched last year's Super Bowl.

"It's something really new and it's been gaining a lot of steam," Jones said.

While on the team, Soldiers will still conduct physical training, weapons
qualifications and other responsibilities that come with being a Soldier. They
will also have to maintain certifications in their military occupational specialty.

"Outside of that, there will be esports training," Jones said. "So whatever game
they're playing in, they'll not only be playing it, but be coached in it to get better."

The team, he said, shares a similar concept to that of other Army competitive
teams that continually train, such as the Golden Knights parachute team, World
Class Athlete Program and Army Marksmanship Unit.

"Esports is like traditional sports," he said. "Nobody can just walk in and expect
to play at a competitive level."

Last weekend, a few Soldiers competed at PAX South in San Antonio as a way
to introduce Army esports to the greater gamer community.

Recruiters from the San Antonio Recruiting Battalion also joined them and were
able to generate some leads with potential recruits, he added.

As a gamer and a recruiter himself, Jones said the team can help bridge the
civilian-military gap by breaking down misconceptions some young people may
have about the Army.

Being able to play their favorite video games with others who share the same
passion is also a bonus.

"For a lot of Soldiers, to include myself, it's like a dream come true," Jones said.
"This is just one of those ways we can start the conversation."

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