First, I have to confess that my family is Army. My father was a Vietnam Vet. He was a medic in the Army who served with Marines (thus the warning to me to never date a Marine). My Uncle is a Medical Corps Doctor. I have one brother that served in Iraq in the Medical Corps and another younger brother that is currently serving in the same stateside. And my spouse is retired Texas Army National Guard with two tours in the Middle East under his belt.
It was when my active duty brother first told me about the problems with recruiting in the army, that I heard of this program. He was still complaining about how poorly grunts were doing in the first round of basic training. He tells me, often, how the Army Medical Corps is suffering from a severe lack of recruits who can do two things:
- Finish basic training
- Pass basic, first round medical (ie nursing level) exams
It’s not so much the physical necessities of basic training that the greenies are having trouble with, from the stories I’ve been told. The weakness is in the mental toughness needed to endure the strict, often compassion-free direction given to them by their superior officers. There are no “safe spaces” in the Army, and definitely no hug stations or puppy centers.
Medical training is somewhat harder than your basic, front line, combat training, when it comes to mental toughness (you would assume). Having to dissect human bodies, see blood, cut open skin with a blade, etc, that comes with actual medical training before you even reach the battlefield. So, if the Army is looking for more educated, blood hardened recruits, they might be out of luck, since even the well-educated don’t seem to be able to face the rigors of Army training and education.
But don’t worry, the army has an answer! Esports.
I don’t always take my brother seriously, so I brushed off his comments until I went to PAX South. There, I met the U.S. Army Esports team and engaged Sergeant First Class Christopher Jones, who was nice enough to answer a few of my questions about the new program:
Noelle: I’m not in your demographic, but my son definitely is. He is 17 years old. How are you reaching out to people his age?
Sgt Jones: Just as the demographic for gaming grows larger every year, the age group for enlistment is 17 to 34. We are reaching out to start the conversation about Army opportunities through our shared passion for gaming.
Noelle: Are the egamers in the program have a designated battalion, and do they come from different groups, like Medical Corps, Military Police, etc and just come together for competitions?
Sgt Jones: Soldiers assigned to be a part of the esports team will come from all over the Army and from different military occupational specialties.
Noelle: Will the egamers spend time entertaining the troops?
Sgt Jones: These competitors will be competing in existing civilian tournaments at the local regional and national level.
Noelle: Where will they be based from? (I’m, of course, hoping Texas).
Sgt Jones: The team is headquartered at Fort Knox, KY.
Noelle: Will they be traveling overseas for competitions?
Sgt Jones: There are no announcements for tournament attendance and locations at this time.
Noelle: What is the next convention you are planning to attend?
Sgt Jones: The next event the Army Esports team will be attending is PAX East in Boston 28-30 March
Noelle: What does “training” consist of for your battalion?
Sgt Jones: Yes with anything the Soldiers will train in their respective games, it’s just not in the normal sense that most people think of when they hear the word training. Essentially the way they train is to play their game and work on whatever tactics are needed to win. The team is looking into actual game coaches as well. (Yes they actually have people that just coach video game players) As for the games that they will be playing there is no set line up. As the popularity of games come and having Soldiers skilled enough to be competitive in those games the lineup will be ever changing to stay relative with the gaming community.
The announcements for the groups (battalions) appearances will probably be reported on this page, which doubles as the recruiting page:
You can find more information there as well as contact for recruitment or any other questions you may have.