The U.S. Army is having a tough time finding enough soldiers to fill their ranks, as younger generations have become less willing to fight for the country. In fact, after missing recruiting goals last year for the first time since 2005, the Army turned to the video game world to find recruits and may start talking to kids as young as 12 about joining the military.
“I would argue that in looking at these generations, we have to begin thinking about how they approach this question of where they will apply their talent,” Dr. E. Casey Wardynski, Army assistant secretary for manpower and reserve affairs said. “We have to confront this question of, will we wait until they’re 17, or will we start talking to them at age 12, 13, 14, 15 when they form the set of things they are thinking about doing with their life?”
“If we wait until they’re 17 or 18, we will not be the first impression,” Wardynski said. “Others will have made that for us.”
Army turns to Video Gamers
Army Recruiting Command selected 20 Army gamers ― out of 8,000 applicants ― to be part of an official Army eSports team that will stream their own gaming while at home and travel to tournaments to meet teenagers who could one day serve.
“If we are going to be successful in recruiting, then we need to be where young people are — and they are operating in the digital world,” said Maj. Gen. Frank Muth, commanding general for U.S. Army Recruiting Command. “There are already thousands of current Soldiers who are competitive online gamers. Now we are giving them a chance to use their talents to help us relate to and connect with other young gamers. They will have the ability to start a dialogue about what it is like to serve in our Army and see if they are interested in joining.”
“Our team, they’re part of the recruiting force. They’re going to go through the three-day, intensive recruiting course,” Muth said. “And they’re out there too: 1. Game, 2. Win, and also engage with the Z Generation, to give them knowledge about serving in our military and the opportunities in the military.”
Will Video Game Skills Transfer to the Battlefield?
Besides being an effective way to up recruiting efforts, the military has been looking at video gamers for quite some time as a way to ensure battlefield readiness. Over the last decade, the military has increasingly started to encourage its soldiers to partake in first-person shooter style games as a way to continue combat training.
Earlier in the month, we ran an article about how video games can effectively train people in the field of preparedness, and it looks like for better or worse the future of military warfare may be determined by gamers.