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23 Mar, 2009 06:33

US Army recruitment drive turns to video games

The US is turning to technology to step up its recruitment drive for new soldiers by introducing a $13 million virtual world of combat simulations where people can experience the adrenaline of a military mission.

Tax payer’s money has been used to build a multi-million dollar project called The Army Experience Center in Philadelphia. It is meant to gives ordinary people a taste of the excitement of being in the military.

Rows and rows of computers let visitors play combat simulator games – for free. Nowhere else can you sit in a life size replica of an Apache or a Black Hawk helicopter, and as you fight the virtual enemy, you can feel the recoil of the weapon and the hot air swirling around.

If you have ever wondered what it was like to drive a Humvee through the middle of combat, you can try one of the simulators at the multi-million dollar army experience center – but this begs the question, how does it compare to the real deal?

“It was just one more step in the army’s policy of recruitment, which is basically to portray the military like a video game or music video. It shows these experiences like shooting a gun at the screen and divorces it of its moral context. In reality, when you shoot a gun, there’s going to be a dead person on the other side,” says Iraq War veteran Aidan Delgado.

Aidan Delgado served a year in Iraq during the height of insurgency. He has now become an avid anti-war activist.

“The army’s going to do a great job of telling your kids what is great about the military. In fact, most of our culture is designed to tell you what is great about the military. What they’ll never have you talk to is someone who didn’t have a good experience in the army. I don’t’ advocate people not joining the military, I think they have a right to recruit, but I think they have a duty to recruit honestly,” Delgado added.

There is no sign at the experience center that says join here. Instead, you can talk to people like Mario.

He has served three tours in combat, and currently helps to create a friendly and relaxed environment at the center.

“It gives the opportunity to learn about the army without feeling pressured and the stress and the anxiety of learning something new, without being attacked, or feeling that anxiety about recruiters,” Mario says.

The US military is currently stretched between two wars, so recruits are needed. While Obama has just sent 17,000 more troops to Afghanistan, generals had asked for 30,000.

Given the fact that America is facing rising unemployment and an economy spinning out of control, the financial benefits of joining the military have become all the more tempting.

A fancy touch screen in the center lists average salaries and benefits, depending on positions and years served… but what it does not show are the potential consequences of combat, which might stay one’s hand in moving from the virtual world to the battlefield.