The US Army is building an esports team to appeal to young people

The US Army is hoping to connect with America’s youth by getting into esports. As Stars and Stripes (opens in new tab) reports, the Army is now actively recruiting for the official US Army Esports team which, according to recruiter Ryan Meaux, will not only “represent the Army in competitive gaming,” but also “help the Army address the growing disconnect with society.” 

As ArmyTimes (opens in new tab) reported in September (via Polygon (opens in new tab)), the Army failed to meet its recruitment target this year by roughly 7,500 soldiers. At the time, deputy assistant secretary Marshall Williams said “we’re tossing away some of the old [recruitment] methods” because “that person we’re going after today is so completely different.” As Meaux said in a Reddit AMA (opens in new tab) last week, the Army is hoping this esports initiative will appeal to that person and bolster recruitment efforts. 

“Soldiers have expressed a strong desire to represent the Army in competitive gaming,” Meaux said. “They have shown Army leaders how gaming can help us connect to young people and show them a side of soldiers they may not expect. This initiative will help make our soldiers more visible and relatable to today’s youth … They will be in a support role to help young people see soldiers in a different light and understand the many different roles people can have in the Army.” 

The US Army Esports team is one of two planned “competitive outreach teams,” with the other being a more conventional functional fitness team. Both teams “will travel to various events and compete for the Army,” Meaux said. Esports team members will also “be involved in beta testing for Army apps and simulation software, which helps demonstrate some of the advanced technology the Army uses.” Naturally, Army recruiters will accompany the teams to their events, though team members themselves won’t be recruiting. 

In order to join the Army’s esports team – I will never get used to writing that – you must be an active, reserve, or veteran Army soldier. “No National Guard, no civilians, no other branches,” Meaux said in a video posted to the team’s Facebook (opens in new tab) page. (An Army Esports Twitter account was also created, but it appears to have been suspended (opens in new tab).) Applications will be open through Friday, November 30. Regarding member selection, Meaux said on Reddit: “The only thing that matters when it comes to being selected is skill, we must win!”

So, what games is the Army’s team going to play? Call of Duty and Battlefield? Well, yes and yes, actually, but according to the official application (opens in new tab), they’re also considering Fortnite, Tekken, League of Legends, PUBG, Overwatch, FIFA, Madden, and NBA 2K. Meaux has mentioned Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and DOTA as potential games, and Street Fighter has appeared in several posts on the team’s Facebook page. Additionally, applicants can write-in other games, and as long as there’s enough interest, Meaux says they’re willing to try just about any game with an esports scene. Tryout tournaments will be held in December to select team members. The first tournament, a Tekken 7 tournament, is scheduled for December 8. The winner will represent the Army at PAX South in January. 

The esports team will be a full-time duty position, Meaux said, and members “will receive the same pay and benefits as other Soldiers of equal rank across the Army.” Additionally, “all expenses associated with certifications, competitions and other requirements of the job will be paid by the Army,” Meaux said. That includes future plans for the esports team to tour the United States in a massive trailer in order to compete with college-level esports teams. 

Relatedly, have you heard that Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 is pretty good? I reckon the Army will want to play it. 

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