The Army's new recruitment tool lets high-tech video game centers desensitize, condition, train and even enlist America's youth.

The Army Experience Center, located in the Franklin Mills Mall just north of Philadelphia, bills itself as a "state-of-the-art educational facility that uses interactive simulations and online learning programs to educate visitors about the many careers, training and educational opportunities available in the Army."

Nonsense. The only thing they're teaching here is how to blow shit up. If it's state-of-the-art anything, it's state-of-the-art adolescent boys’ wet dreams.

"Too slow! Do it again!" yells the voice in my earphones as a new sequence of armed figures in camouflage pop up in front of me. I -- the player -- am attached to the foreshortened barrel of an M-16 -- and a little embarrassed by that. It's not my thing, really. And I wasn't expecting the game to involve having to tolerate some dickhead's personal opinion about my marksmanship.

But I didn't come here to get yelled at or to play games. I came because I was curious about the Army's latest marketing strategy. For $12 million, this place has been dressed to kill: 15,000 square feet (about three basketball courts) done up in brushed steel, glass and low-light glam. But what this place is really about is the bling: strings of networked Xbox 360 pods and individual gaming stations. And the crown jewels: a UH-60 Black Hawk, an AH-64 Apache and a Humvee. Simulators. And it's all entirely free.

"Potential recruits are afforded a unique opportunity to learn what it means to be the best-led, best-trained and best-equipped Army in the world by allowing them to virtually experience multiple aspects of the Army," says Pete Geren, Secretary of the Army.

Sir, give me a break, sir! You mean the "Career Navigators," those fancy touch-screen installations where you can see all the different jobs the Army can train you for? No one went near them all day. Most of these kids can't reach them, anyway. It's the shiny toys and virtual adrenaline rush that brings them in.

Behind a glass wall, there are 40 more terminals facing a wall of plasma screens: the Tactical Operations Center, where local educators (principals, superintendents, school counselors and teachers) are given an earful about how misunderstood the military is.

"Accurate information about the military experience is often drowned out, or the information that does get through projects mixed messages or inaccuracies," Lt. Gen. Benjamin C. Freakly recently complained to the Northeast Times. "The Army Experience Center provides hands-on, virtual-reality experiences and simulations for young men and women, their parents and others to see, touch and learn firsthand what it means to be in the Army."

There are no mixed messages at the AEC: being in the Army is about getting to play with boy toys, 24/7. Freakly's tidy version of "what it means to be in the Army" fails to mention what can happen if your Humvee hits an IED, or how it might feel to be splattered with your best friend's insides. Or your own.

Views: 76

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

There is nothing 'new' about using simulators to recruit or train. Simulations exists in every industry, every line of work; the current times just allow for more and more realistic submersion.

It is also not unique to the military to show the glamorous and fun parts of the job while ignoring the downsides. Every job recruiter out there -no matter the job- will up-play the good and down-play the bad.

In this article in particular, she complains about the simulated drill sergeant yelling at her. She needs to buy a clue! At least they simulated that part, usually the recruiter doesn't bother to tell you that the drill sergeant will be yelling at you; let alone how intimidating it will be.

As for her gripe about how young the kids are and the violence they are getting exposed to; is it really that much different than the exposure they can get at home from their own video games, television, movies, and the internet? Just because they are immersed in a simulation making it a little more real doesn't make it any different.

The Army is NOT teaching kids that killing is fun; the Army is capitalizing on the latest technology and a proven recruiting strategy to provide something these kids are interested in. The original author should simulate a few comparisons in her mind: 1. If the Police setup a similar recruiting simulator, would she complain? 2. Go to a gaming convention or electronics recruiting fair; game companies create the same kind of simulators to recruit customers; programming, game art, and graphic schools use the same kind of simulators to recruit students.


I'm an Army veteran. I don't support the war(s) Bush got us into. However I do support the military, what it stands for, and what its basic intensions are. It irritates me when people (like this author) pass judgments about the military, especially when they have no in-depth experience to draw from. Its even worse, and possibly makes me angry when they attempt to villain-ize the military.

Some people aren't cut out for the military, some are born for it, some are molded for it, and some try it out and get out. What so many people don't seem to realize is that it is just a job. A very very important job, I would never want to downplay the dedication and hard work it takes or how vital they are to our country; but at the end of the day its a job. Like any other job you do what your boss tells you; but unlike other jobs you can't quit when you don't agree with your boss (at least until your contract is done). That takes guts and dedication to sign that kind of contract!

This is getting rant-like, so I'll finish before I take it too far. In my opinion the original author is clueless and villain-izing the military because she doesn't agree with the wars in the Middle East. Its fine to disagree, but leave the military alone, they are just doing their job; go after the politicians, they are the ones who hand down the orders.
You pretty much said what I wanted to, Johnny. Articles like this one are why I grant alternet the same amount of credibility that I grant FOX news. perhaps useful to find out that a topic exists, but worthless for actual reliable information.
From what I can gather, this article isn't necessarily non-supportive of the military itself but of their marketing tactics.

Our entire marketing industry- not just the marketing of the military- has shifted from being informative to being manipulative. That is very unethical, in my opinion. By bringing children in and purposely exposing them to all of the things that will get their adrenaline and their emotions rushing, they are effectively crippling these kids' ability to think rationally about whether or not to join the military. This is a tried and true method of propaganda and it's the same kind of tactic that the politicians use to get people to go to war, so why should a person blame the politicians but not the army's marketing department when they're doing the exact same thing?

Also, keep in mind that I support the members of the military when they are doing their jobs, but their jobs are to uphold the Constitution and by extension, international law. When our government orders them into a war that is unconstitutional, it is their JOB and their RIGHT to refuse, even if it will land them in prison. People seem to have the idea that speaking badly of the military is somehow unpatriotic. It's the same thing as with religion. They think that it's sacred and that nobody should speak badly of it. I don't buy that. In fact, with the power that organizations like the US military branches have, I would say that of all organizations, they are the ones that we definitely SHOULD be watching and that we definitely SHOULD speak out against when they are doing something that's unethical, illegal, or bad for our country.

I, for one, will never allow my children to enter a facility such as this one. In such an environment, they are only being manipulated into possibly doing something that they otherwise wouldn't want to do. For anyone to knowingly allow their children to be manipulated into going into a war zone is parenting of the absolute worst kind. Parents should know better and the military should not be allowed to utilize such marketing tactics.
You might be right that she was only opposing the marketing tactic; but from my perspective I felt the innuendo coming through. So as far as that goes, I stand by my opinion that she is transferring her anti-war stance into an anti-military stance. Granted, you could be right since I've not talked to her; but that's my take on it.

You are right concerning the entire marketing industry; they are all about manipulating an coercing you you in. Cause if most people knew the facts about most products, lots of those products would never sell. So why call-out the military if everyone is doing it?

I'll present this again... How much more violent are these really than the video games, television, movies, and internet the kids are already exposed to? Also why call-out the military when video game companies use the same kind of simulators at a gaming convention? Or graphics and programming schools using similar setups to recruit students? What about police departments that setup similar recruiting simulators?

If you think that it is the military's "JOB and their RIGHT to refuse, even if it will land them in prison" then you don't understand how the military works or what is in that contract you sign. When you sign that contact, the military (and the government) own you. Refusing to do your job during peace time gets you court martialed with jail time in a military prison (which is different than a civilian prison) - minimum for the rest of your contract, maybe longer. Refusing to do your job during war time is far worse. It could result it you being found guilty of treason; I can't imagine it being carried out in this-day-and-age, but treason can be punishable by death.

The way you protest, the way most in the military protest, is by their vote and their contract renewal. If you don't like the politician handing down the orders, you vote a new one in. If those politicians keep pointing you in a direction you don't like, when your contract is up you don't renew and get out. -- Here's the thing, now that you're out, the military needs to replace that body, so they have to step-up the recruiting and recruiting methods.

Another thing about the internal part of the military is that most don't know what's really going on, or what the real objective is. They are handed orders (sometimes with intel, sometimes without); they have no idea the big picture when those orders first come, all they know is its their job to carry them out. Its that cliche where everyone has a piece of the puzzle, but only a few know what picture it makes.

Criticizing the military is not unpatriotic; but criticizing the solider who is just doing his job is. Its the equivalent of criticizing the janitor, the mail room clerk, and the teller for the banks failing. Instead the upper-management, CEOs, and board of directors should be criticized. Same for the military: criticize the upper-brass, the politicians, and the president - leave the troops alone.

No one wants to go to war; and even more-so, no parent wants their child to go to war. But the fact remains that we need to have some military force. If every parent prevents their child from entering the military, sooner or later we end up with a defenseless country. I applaud that you want to prevent your child's exposure to a marketing ploy like this, but (with or without exposure to this) at some point they will have to make their own choice. Everyone picks their own way to be patriotic, everyone strives to find a career they are good at. What happens if your child picks the military?
The reason I call out the military for these tactics when the video game industry does the same thing is that the cost of falling victim to this strategy is much higher when the goal is military recruitment than when the goal is to sell a video game. It's unethical in any situation, but it's much worse to be manipulated into going to war than to be manipulated into spending $50 on a video game. It's not the violence that bothers me. I personally think that the parents who complain about violent video games are the ones who are too lazy to educate their children on why unnecessary violence is a bad thing.

I should have used different wording in my point about it being a military member's "JOB and RIGHT to refuse..." What I meant by that was that if a soldier takes an oath to defend the Constitution (as he/she does, from my understanding), that oath should take a priority to orders, even when not following orders will get him/her prison time. I understand that the punishment is harsh, maybe even approaching death. But if a soldier is willing to die for his country and if what's best for his/her country is to refuse orders, he/she is no less doing his/her job than if he/she ignored the oath and followed the orders anyway. Of course, there are bigger issues here as well. If we come to a cultural willingness to blindly follow orders, fascism will soon follow. It's those who ask questions who are really defending freedom, not those who go to war just because they're told.

"Criticizing the military is not unpatriotic; but criticizing the soldier who is just doing his job is." I could also say that criticizing the mafia is not a bad thing but criticizing the hitman who is just doing his job is, but I doubt you would agree. The fact is that if someone knowingly commits a crime, whether or not he was contracted or otherwise obligated, he still committed the crime. I'm not saying that all soldiers are bad people. Most of them don't understand the power of questioning because they were raised in a culture that encourages us to blindly follow. How could I blame them for just doing what they were raised to do? In fact, I don't even blame the military marketers. They, too, are just doing what they were raised to do. If any of them understood why manipulation by the military was such a bad thing, they probably would find new jobs. In fact, I would bet that most of them don't even realize that what they are doing is manipulation. What I can do, though, is to try to get people to understand these things so that maybe we could have a nation in which people join the military because they truly want to defend the country, not because some recruitment station showed them how "cool" it is to drive a tank.

To answer your question, I plan to properly educate my children so that they can see through the marketing tactics and manipulation so that if they do want to join the military, I can be reasonably sure that they really want to and that they weren't just talked into it by some shady recruiter with fancy marketing campaigns.

As much as it may not seem so, I do respect anyone who has the courage to join up to defend the country, yourself included, but my only point is that there is a big difference between a defensive military that exists solely to defend the country and a swarm of mindless armed zombies who are willing to unquestioningly go to war whenever any politician wants them to. The former is necessary, but the latter will eventually do much more harm than good to the country. These kinds of marketing tactics only serve to ensure that those who join are at least intellectually unstable enough to be easily formed to whatever they want them to be. I would almost rather have no military at all.
...that's why I joined. :(
The recruiting manipulation? Or did I miss something?


© 2021   Created by Rebel.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service