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The US Army wants to attract more soldiers by fielding a Fortnite team

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New esports initiative also includes League of Legends, PUBG and Overwatch

Soldiers assigned to the 1st Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, await extraction via a CH-47 Chinook during an aerial response force live-fire training exercise, Al Asad Air Base, Iraq, Oct. 31, 2018.
Soldiers assigned to the 1st Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, await extraction via a CH-47 Chinook during an aerial response force live-fire training exercise, Al Asad Air Base, Iraq, Oct. 31, 2018.
Army 1st Lt. Leland White/Department of Defense

In an attempt better connect with America’s youth, the U.S. Army is standing up an esports team. The effort comes during a period in which the Army is having difficulty meeting its recruitment targets.

As first reported by Stars And Stripes, an independent news organization which operates from within the Department of Defense, the Army esports team is currently accepting applications from active duty personnel, reservists and veterans. An online form indicates that there is interest in fielding teams for Fortnite, Call of Duty, Tekken, League of Legends, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, Overwatch, FIFA, the Madden series and the NBA 2K franchise.

In an interview for an Army recruiting station in Slidell, Louisiana, staff sergeant Ryan Meaux said the goal was to use esports in “furthering the Army’s brand” and boosting recruitment. According to Meaux, that will begin in December with an internal Tekken 7 tournament. The winner will represent the Army at PAX South in January 2019.

This is not the first time that the military has used video games to appeal to potential recruits. It previously staged a Street Fighter 5 esports tournament at eight garrisons. One recent high-profile effort saw the Army design and build its own first-person shooter, called America’s Army. You can still access a version of “the official game of the U.S. Army,” which is now free-to-play, on Steam. It was recently updated in October.

I got the chance to go down to Los Angeles for the Esports conference held at the Sheraton in Universal City CA! Esports Quick Q&A with SSG Ryan Meaux to explain what’s going to happen. Let’s get into it.

Posted by Amuse on Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Eventually, staff sergeant Meaux said, the intent of the Army’s esports initiative is to field an Army esports trailer, a kind of traveling road show that will appear at college campuses around the country. Once deployed, that college’s esports teams will use the vehicle to compete against the Army’s esports team remotely from Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

As the Army’s lengthy campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq fatigued the force and thinned its ranks, the Army began drawing down its numbers throughout the first half of the decade. In the summer of 2017, however, a new mandate was given. The goal is now to increase the total size of the Army beyond 1 million soldiers, with roughly half of those on active duty. As of September, that process has stalled. According to Army Times, it missed its goal of 483,500 active duty soldiers by about 7,500.