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Yes, the Army encourages this sergeant to play video games all day (for recruiting purposes)
During his senior year at Woodlawn High School in 2003, Christopher Jones enlisted in the Army. As soon as he got his first barracks room following training, he bought a PlayStation2, GameCube and Xbox so he could play video games in his off time.
Sixteen years later, he's still in the Army, but video games aren't his recreation. They're his job.
Jones is part of the Army's ultimate 21st-century unit — the esports team. A sergeant first class, Jones is the noncommissioned officer in charge of 16 soldiers who, during their three-year rotation with the team at Fort Knox, Kentucky, exchange real weapons for virtual ones.
The purpose is to help Army recruiting by showing gamers — and there are a lot of them in the 17- to 35-year-old demographic — that they may have more in common with soldiers than they think, Jones said.
"We're showing the soldier behind the uniform," said Jones, who was born in Baton Rouge and lived in the area until joining the Army. "This is that one avenue to tell that story. We hold these different positions. We have the same passion. We love gaming just as much as everyone else. The difference is we are in a different profession. We come from the infantry. We come from aviation, military police, all kinds of different professions within the Army. But we share the same passion."
The team, which will be fully operational by Oct. 1, attends esports competitions and conventions, playing popular video games such as "Call of Duty," "League of Legends" and "Fortnite" against those who attend, and they get to meet face-to-face. At the PAX East exhibition in March in Boston, players lined up for more than an hour to take on the Army team.
"They were blown away at the fact that our soldiers are very skilled, beating them at their favorite game," Jones said. "Everyone had a really great time because they're connected over (an) already established shared passion."
Jones, 34, was a recruiter in Hammond last year when the Army Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation division had a "Street Fighter" video tournament at several installations. Because of his interest in video games, he was chosen to serve as a commentator during an event. It was successful enough that Maj. Gen. Frank Muth, commander of U.S. Army Recruiting Command, thought esports could become an effective recruiting tool. He selected Jones to manage the program. The Army is the only military branch that has a video game recruiting outreach, Jones said.
From his own recruiting experience, Jones said he thinks it's a great idea.
"When I talk about my hobbies, we start the conversation: 'I love video games,'" he said. "'Wow! The Army lets you play video games?' There's a whole lot of misconceptions that were broken by boots-on-the-ground level having that conversation."
The Army isn't the only victim of stereotypes, Jones said. Many video game enthusiasts don't fit the mold of an undersized nerd.
"One of the soldiers who participates in the program is actually a special forces operator. He was actually a semiprofessional gamer before he joined the Army, and now he's special forces," he said.
In his current role, Jones oversees the program, coordinating which events the esports team will attend, attending gaming conventions and creating opportunities to raise the Army team's visibility.
"The esports industry is about to be at a $1 billion industry," Jones said. "It's been (big) in Asia and Europe for a while, and it's really gaining steam here in North America. … Yes, it's groundbreaking. It's definitely new, but, at my level, it definitely feels like a no-brainer."
©2019 The Advocate, Baton Rouge, La.
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My brother earned the Medal of Honor for saving countless lives — but only after he was left for dead
"As I learned while researching a book about John, the SEAL ground commander, Cmdr. Tim Szymanski, had stupidly and with great hubris insisted on insertion being that night."
Editor's Note: The following is an op-ed. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Task & Purpose.
Air Force Master Sgt. John "Chappy" Chapman is my brother. As one of an elite group, Air Force Combat Control — the deadliest and most badass band of brothers to walk a battlefield — John gave his life on March 4, 2002 for brothers he never knew.
They were the brave men who comprised a Quick Reaction Force (QRF) that had been called in to rescue the SEAL Team 6 team (Mako-30) with whom he had been embedded, which left him behind on Takur Ghar, a desolate mountain in Afghanistan that topped out at over 10,000 feet.
As I learned while researching a book about John, the SEAL ground commander, Cmdr. Tim Szymanski, had stupidly and with great hubris insisted on insertion being that night. After many delays, the mission should and could have been pushed one day, but Szymanski ordered the team to proceed as planned, and Britt "Slab" Slabinski, John's team leader, fell into step after another SEAL team refused the mission.
But the "plan" went even more south when they made the rookie move to insert directly atop the mountain — right into the hands of the bad guys they knew were there.
She's photographed every major war of the last 20 years. Marine Corps boot camp was something else entirely
Conflict photographer Lynsey Addario's seen a hell of a lot of combat over the past twenty years. She patrolled Afghanistan's Helmand Province with the Marines, accompanied the Army on night raids in Baghdad, took artillery fire with rebel fighters in Libya and has taken photos in countless other wars and humanitarian disasters around the world.
Along the way, Addario captured images of plenty of women serving with pride in uniform, not only in the U.S. armed forces, but also on the battlefields of Syria, Colombia, South Sudan and Israel. Her photographs are the subject of a new article in the November 2019 special issue of National Geographic, "Women: A Century of Change," the magazine's first-ever edition written and photographed exclusively by women.
The photos showcase the wide range of goals and ideals for which these women took up arms. Addario's work includes captivating vignettes of a seasoned guerrilla fighter in the jungles of Colombia; a team of Israeli military police patrolling the streets of Jerusalem; and a unit of Kurdish women guarding ISIS refugees in Syria. Some fight to prove themselves, others seek to ignite social change in their home country, and others do it to liberate other women from the grip of ISIS.
Addario visited several active war zones for the piece, but she found herself shaken by something much closer to home: the Marine Corps Recruit Depot at Parris Island, South Carolina.
Addario discussed her visit to boot camp and her other travels in an interview with Task & Purpose, which has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
An Army staff sergeant who "represents the very best of the 101st Airborne Division" has finally received a Silver Star for his heroic actions during the Battle of the Bulge after a 75-year delay.
On Sunday, Staff Sgt. Edmund "Eddie" Sternot was posthumously awarded with a Silver Star for his heroics while leading a machine gun team in the Ardennes Forest. The award, along with Sternot's Bronze Star and Purple Heart, was presented to his only living relative, Sternot's first cousin, 80-year-old Delores Sternot.
U.S. special operations forces are currently field testing a lightweight combat armor designed to cover more of an operator's body than previous protective gear, an official told Task & Purpose.
The armor, called the Lightweight Polyethylene (PE) Armor for Extremity Protection, is one of a handful of subsystems to come out of U.S. Special Operations Command's Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS) effort that media outlets dubbed the "Iron Man suit," Navy Lieutenant Cmdr. Tim Hawkins, a SOCOM spokesman, told Task & Purpose on Wednesday.