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Military Recruitment and Memorial Day in a Time of Social Distancing

Video Games Boost Military Recruitment

Heading into Memorial Day Weekend, military recruiters would normally be connecting with prospective candidates at high schools and job fairs. Now, as social distancing measures keep people at home, America’s armed forces are recruiting in a new way: through video games.

Recently, the Army, Navy, and Air Force launched esports teams to participate in large online gaming tournaments. A special team of soldiers compete full time and are able to strike up organic conversations with potential recruits helping to generate leads or gather emails and phone numbers for recruiters to use in order to reach out to prospective candidates.

One battalion based in Syracuse, New York, organized an online Call of Duty tournament to make up for lost face-to-face recruiting opportunities. The tournament generated 1,400 leads, more than the battalion usually gets in-person at their biggest recruiting event of the year.

Numbers Still Lag

Even with esports generating over 13,000 leads through the first half of 2020, the Army is still far behind its goal of signing up 70,000 new people each year. Without in-person events this summer, those numbers may continue to lag.

The military is also shifting its focus away from traditional methods of advertising, like billboards, and zeroing in on Google (GOOGL) ads and social media. This trend began before the pandemic, as the military realized it needed to reach young Americans online, but is now more crucial than ever with in-person events suspended.

Memorial Day Online

As military recruitment moves virtual, so do Memorial Day celebrations honoring those who have sacrificed their lives serving for the United States.

Across the country, walks and runs to honor veterans will still happen, but instead of gathering in big groups, participants plan to measure their own courses using GPS and will connect with each other on social media. The National Memorial Day Parade, which usually takes place along Constitution Avenue in Washington DC, will be replaced with an original TV program.

In addition to celebrating veterans and the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, some celebrations this year will also honor healthcare workers who have been fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.

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