Calling all gamers: the Army's Esports team is ready for its close-up

Joining the Military

VIDEO: The top 5 games where you get nuked

For the first time, the Army brass and defense industry folks descending on Washington, D.C. for the annual Association of the U.S. Army conference will be joined by the Army's latest pride and joy — it's team of professional gamers.

Yes, the Army really has that.

The U.S. Army Esports team has become the darling of Army recruiting as the service goes all-in on meeting the youths where they're at: the digital space.

In 2018, Army Recruiting Command (USAREC) put out a request asking active duty and reserve soldiers to come put their gaming skills to the test and try out for the Esports team.

While thousands of soldiers gave it their all, only 16 were ultimately selected as competitive gamers and assigned to the Marking and Engagement Brigade at Fort Knox for three years of "constant competitive training, recruiting engagements and interaction with the public on a daily basis," the Army said in its 2018 release.

Those 16 team members all have different stories as to how they came into gaming. Army Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Jones — who told Task & Purpose that he's essentially the general manager for the Army Esports team — said that some grew up with gaming; others got more into it after joining the Army because they were in control of their own budgets and factored in the newest gaming systems; one player was even a semi-professional Halo player before he joined the Army.

And while the team members themselves aren't recruiters, they hope to spark an interest in the Army in people who are already engaged in the Esports world. Jones said that the team has been able to show a new audience "the human element, beneath the uniform.

"Everybody assumes that we're all exactly the same — robotic, or something like that," Jones said. "This tells the human element, it shows that we have passions just like everybody else. We just have a different profession."

It's no surprise why the Army decided to jump on the bandwagon for an industry growing in the way that Esports is. In February, Reuters reported that Esports revenue around the world would hit $1.1 billion in 2019, a 27% increase from 2018. In North America alone, the generated revenue was expected to hit $409 million, more than any other region in the world.

The total Esports audience is expected to reach 454 million people, per Reuters.

And the Army has already begun leaning heavily into the digital space, making it a priority for recruiting efforts.

Maj. Gen. Frank Muth, the head of USAREC, told reporters at a roundtable in September that at Esports tournaments around the country, approximately 80,000 people are on the floor of the tournament at any one time. And that's not including the people who are tuning in through various social media platforms, like Twitch, a live-streaming video platform.

Muth told reporters that studies have shown that of their target audience of 17- to 24-year olds, around half of them are "on some type of egaming." He said that typically, an Army event yields around 350 leads from potential recruits. But one Esports event brought in about "900 really good quality leads."

"We think that Esports and the digital plane is going to become the number one lead generator," Muth said.

He also bragged on the Army's Esports trailer, saying there's "nothing that exists in the United States that's like it."

And it is certainly something to see.

Inside the Army Esports trailer(Facebook photo)

Task & Purpose went to check out the trailer in-person on October 11, at the service's first-ever ArmyCon. On the inside, eight seats, complete with a gaming PC, an Xbox 1S, a PS4 Pro, and a Nintendo Switch. It's almost completely dark except for some neon green lighting. Jones told Task & Purpose that it can be adjusted for all eight players to be on the same game, or for each to be playing their own.

The opportunity for gaming is abundant, to say the least.

On the outside, four flat-screen TVs projecting the gaming that's happening in real time from four of the seats inside. Jones said that along with the competitive gamers, he brought on people in charge of production, social media, and commentary.

"We're kind of our own ecosystem," Jones said.

That ecosystem can travel to major high school or college events, festivities like ArmyCon, and more. It was debuted at the Salt Lake Gaming Con in Salt Lake City, Utah — a major gaming convention. And while interested spectators were waiting in line to get a closer look, local recruiters and Esports team members worked the crowd, explaining the Army mission and the upsides to serving.

Aside from the practical mission that the Esports team has set out to accomplish, another hope is that they're able to get rid of preconceived notions about who can and can't be a U.S. soldier — and a successful gamer.

"All of these soldiers are successful soldiers," Jones said. "And that's telling everyone out there that may have assumptions on either side — whether you're a gamer and people assume you live in your mom's basement, or the other side saying well gamers can't do this — we can prove them both wrong. Not only can you be a gamer and be in the Army, you can absolutely excel at it."

The Space Force has a name tape now


The U.S. Space Force has a name tape for uniforms now. Get excited people.

In a tweet from its official account, the Space Force said its uniform name tapes have "touched down in the Pentagon," sharing a photo of it on the chest of Gen. John W. Raymond, the newly-minted Chief of Space Operations for the new service branch nested in the Department of the Air Force.

Read More

PALM BEACH, Fla. (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump gave a minute-to-minute account of the U.S. drone strikes that killed Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani in remarks to a Republican fund-raising dinner on Friday night, according to audio obtained by CNN.

With his typical dramatic flourish, Trump recounted the scene as he monitored the strikes from the White House Situation Room when Soleimani was killed.

Read More

The U.S. Navy will name its fourth Ford-class aircraft carrier after Doris Miller, an iconic World War II sailor recognized for his heroism during the Pearl Harbor attack, according to reports in The Honolulu Star-Advertiser and U.S. Naval Institute News.

Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly is expected to announce the naming of CVN-81 during a ceremony on Monday in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, according to USNI. Two of Miller's nieces are expected to be there, according to the Star-Advertiser.

Read More

Two immigrants, a pastor and an Army sergeant have been convicted of conspiracy to commit marriage fraud as part of an illegal immigration scheme, according to federal prosecutors.

Rajesh Ramcharan, 45; Diann Ramcharan, 37; Sgt. Galima Murry, 31; and the Rev. Ken Harvell, 60, were found guilty Thursday after a nine-day jury trial, according to a news release from the U.S. attorney's office in Colorado.

The conspiracy involved obtaining immigration benefits for Rajesh Ramcharan, Diann Ramcharan, and one of their minor children, the release said. A married couple in 2007 came to the U.S. from Trinidad and Tobago on visitor visas. They overstayed the visas and settled in Colorado.

Read More

DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran said on Saturday it was sending to Ukraine the black boxes from a Ukrainian passenger plane that the Iranian military shot down this month, an accident that sparked unrest at home and added to pressure on Tehran from abroad.

Iran's Tasnim news agency also reported the authorities were prepared for experts from France, Canada and the United States to examine information from the data and voice recorders of the Ukraine International Airlines plane that came down on Jan. 8.

The plane disaster, in which all 176 aboard were killed, has added to international pressure on Iran as it grapples with a long running row with the United States over its nuclear program that briefly erupted into open conflict this month.

Read More