The U.S. Army might not be able to attend career fairs or hold recruitment events right now, but its soldiers can still beat you in video games. The U.S. Army eSports division, launched out of Fort Knox, Tennessee as a recruitment effort, is thriving amid the coronavirus pandemic.
"When someone engages with the U.S. Army, especially soldiers, and they see a uniform, they may not necessarily understand who's underneath that uniform," said Sergeant First Class Christopher Jones, general manager of U.S. Army eSports. "A lot of times that I've talked to different people across America and they find out that I'm a gamer — a long-time gamer — they may give me an interesting look to say 'Oh I didn't realize soldiers play games.'"
The eSports division is a competition team and was created to make soldiers more "visible and relatable to today's youth." Its members are drawn from both the active-duty Army and the Army Reserves, representing the military branch in competitions and events nationwide.
Though the members of the eSports outreach teams are not recruiters, they play a support role in getting young gamers to see soldiers in a different light and offering up insight into careers the Army has to offer.
During the coronavirus pandemic, this remote outreach can net more prospective recruits than traditional means, which underscores the team's success. At its core, however, the program is meant to connect society with its soldiers.
"We created this program to connect America to its army through the passion of gaming," said Jones.