Esports
(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

Injuries and dehydration won't be key concerns for the Fort Jackson team manager of the soon-to-be U.S. Army Esports Team, since all of their competitions are virtual and don't require players to break a sweat.

In the name of recruiting, the Army is selecting Soldiers with the best video gaming skills to play.

"Esports is (a) competitive video game organization, where competitions can be held either in a single location ... or (they) can be done over the internet," explained Esports team manager 1st Lt. Jonathan French, executive officer of Fort Jackson's Company B, Headquarter and Headquarters Battalion. "Prizes for competition have ranged from $10 all the way up to $750,000, if not higher."

French attended the 2019 PAX South Expo in San Antonio, an eSports competition, along with some potential Army teammates Jan. 17-20.

Soldiers took first and second place in one of the featured video game tournaments.

The team's aim was to "start showing face," French said. "We were making a name for ourselves already."

French regularly volunteers with team efforts after-hours.

Along with networking for the Army Esports Team, he is currently helping narrow down a portion of the roughly 7,300 total applicants to between 20 and 30 full-time teammates to be stationed at Fort Knox, Kentucky.

The official games the Army will compete in are yet to be announced, but they may span across different platforms.

French is working with applications for his video game of choice.

"I've played this game the longest," French said.

French also responds to public feedback while livestream gaming for the Esports team.

"I very much enjoy playing video games," French said. "I've been playing video games since the N64 (Nintendo 64)." That console was released in 1996.

Since he was 4 years old, French said he has bonded with friends over video games.

Even though he's now far away from them and his hometown of Bow, New Hampshire, he keeps up the tradition.

The competitive nature is another aspect he said he really enjoys.

It's not all fun and games, and "you have to sit down and dedicate time to be better," French said. "There's always someone out there that's better than you."

Like any other professional Army sport competitor, full-time members of the U.S. Army Esports team at Fort Knox will spend roughly six to eight hours practicing their games daily, along with doing physical training and keeping up with the educational requirements of their careers.

Soldiers on the team will also attend events to "raise awareness about life in the Army" to show the public that recruits can do what they love while serving in the military, said Lisa Ferguson of U.S. Army Recruiting Command in Fort Knox.

"They'll be there to start that conversation," make connections with the gaming community, and answer questions about Army programs, added Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Jones, the general manager of the team.

The goal is to "connect America to the Army through a passion to gaming," Jones added.

Breaking down barriers and showing the Army's "connection to the American population" will be key, Jones said. "We have a whole lot of commonality between us."

Teammates will live stream their personal gaming experiences online.

Under the same outreach company, a Functional Fitness Team and an Army Rock Band will be formed to "serve the same concept" in terms of recruiting, Ferguson said.

French encourages anyone interested in learning more about eSports to check out his live stream page at https://mixer.com/cadlax or the U.S. Army page at Https://mixer.com/usarmyesports.