US Army unveils esports team at PAX West as recruitment tool

SEATTLE — The U.S. Army is turning to gamers to meet its recruitment goals in Seattle.

The Army unveiled its new esports team at PAX Arena at the sold out PAX West gaming convention in Seattle.

"The U.S. Army has passion for all things esports," said Major General Frank Muth, commander of the U.S. Army Recruiting Command.

Eight thousand soldiers signed up for the 16 slots on the team.

The esports team will compete in tournaments across the country. Maj. Gen. Muth also said it could be key to meeting the Army's recruitment mission.

"There are so many folks that don't know about the Army and what the Army does and what the Army can offer so this is another venue to start the discussion," Maj. Gen. Muth explained.

After last year's recruiting shortfall, the Army is set to meet its goals this year. But the mission is still falling short in Seattle.

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KIRO 7 first told you about the Army's recruitment challenges in January and how it was making an unexpected recruiting push into several liberal-leaning cities including Seattle. The shifting strategy included more social media to appeal to young people. Well, it's not enough to just be online.

By showcasing itself to the video game community, the Army hopes to generate interest among gamers.

At Pax West alone, the Army expects to get up to 1,500 new leads. Compare that to just 350 at a more traditional event.

"We're all about breaking that mold," Sergeant First Class Christopher Jones.

As an avid gamer, Sergeant First Class Christopher Jones sparked the idea of an Army esports team last year. He said he realized there was a disconnect with other gamers and needed to dispel old stereotypes about soldiers.

With 150 jobs in the army, not all of them are combat positions.

In addition to competing at tournaments across the country, the Army esports team is tasked with talking to the public.

"We want them to takeaway we're just like everyone else. We just have a different profession. We have the same shared passion," Jones added.

Gamers KIRO 7 spoke agree that it makes the idea of being a soldier more relatable.

"It's not like all  serious. You can still have fun doing something you're passionate about," said Giovanni Nickerson.

"I think it's really neat. I really like the Army supports them having a hobby on the side since they get to serve our country as well," Makailah Bodden said.

The skills learned playing video games, according to Maj. Gen, Muth, can easily transfer to the military.

"Teamwork, communication, spatial understanding, multiple screens, quick decision making, communications," he listed. "Those are all things we use in the Army every day."