All posts by Clifford Kyle Jones

Program teaches future sergeants major to boost Soldiers’ wellness

Read more

 

By CLIFFORD KYLE JONES
NCO Journal

The new year will bring a crop of sergeants major with a new outlook on wellness.

Class 67 at the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy is taking part in the Executive Wellness Program, which is intended to merge information on the Performance Triad with resilience training to help new sergeants major become better Soldiers and leaders.

“We’re trying to bring those two together to help mitigate health issues and optimize readiness,” said Sgt. 1st Class Darin E. Elkins, noncommissioned officer in charge of the Executive Wellness Center at USASMA. “With the Performance Triad — sleep, activity, nutrition — we’re doing a baseline assessment.”

Students were screened about their personal habits, including questions about whether they got enough sleep, how many fruits and vegetables they ate, how much activity they engaged in, and whether they had any pain.

The baseline assessment took place in the fall, near the beginning of Class 67’s instruction. In addition to questions, each of the more than 600 students were run through physical drills such as short sprints, one-footed hops, and holding yoga positions to assess their speed, dexterity and flexibility — as well as identify any lingering pain. The students also underwent vital signs tests and used a machine to check their body fat composition, a more precise measurement than the commonly checked body mass index.

A student in the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy's Class 67 does a one-legged hop during an assessment for the Executive Wellness Program. (Photo by Clifford Kyle Jones / NCO Journal)
A student in the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy’s Class 67 does a one-legged hop during an assessment for the Executive Wellness Program. (Photo by Clifford Kyle Jones / NCO Journal)

As part of the assessments on each area of the triad, the students were coded as green, amber or red — green meaning doing well, amber indicating borderline performance in an area and red suggesting the Soldiers need to improve their sleep, activity or nutrition habits.

Immediately after the assessment, Soldiers met with a dietitian, a physical therapist and a clinical social worker to discuss their results.

At the final station of the assessment, Elkins said, wellness program representatives made sure all the students were signed up for RelayHealth, a Web portal that provides access and appointments to doctors and other health professionals, and knew how to use it and what resources the site provides.

The baseline assessment was just the start of the program, Elkins said. Throughout their time at USASMA at Fort Bliss, Texas, the students of Class 67 will be given further assessments and access to information and resources to help them improve their health and resilience and to teach their Soldiers to do the same when they return to their units as sergeants major.

“They all get a baseline, to know where they are,” Elkins said. “The idea is to have them identify those mitigating issues and then at the end of the school year or the class year, do another baseline to see if there are any changes: Did they learn anything? How can they use that information to take out to the operational Army when they leave here? How can they best optimize readiness for their Soldiers?”

“You build on (the baseline assessment) to change habits or to incorporate better habits,” he continued. “I’ve dropped modules in strategically throughout the school year.”

Elkins said 24 modules, each focusing on different aspects of the Performance Triad or resilience, are available electronically for discussion as part of Class 67’s coursework. The Executive Wellness Program also provides information guides, challenge guides and other technological resources to better teach the future sergeants major how to set wellness goals, eat for performance, enhance Physical Readiness Training and deal with sleep deprivation.

A student in the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy's Class 67 stretches in a yoga pose during an assessment for the Executive Wellness Program. (Photo by Clifford Kyle Jones / NCO Journal)
A student in the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy’s Class 67 stretches in a yoga pose during an assessment for the Executive Wellness Program. (Photo by Clifford Kyle Jones / NCO Journal)

Representatives from the Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness office at USASMA also took part in the Executive Wellness Program assessments. CSF2 will teach Class 67 the Master Resilience Training course, and Elkins said including the office in Performance Triad training will help teachers “bring it all together” when it comes to the effects of sleep, nutrition and activity on mental resilience.

Elkins said, “There are a lot of things Soldiers don’t know, especially when they’re 19, 20, 21,” about treating pain, behavioral health, using dietitians or receiving physical therapy.

“Some of the ownership needs to be on the individual,” Elkins said, “but they can’t own it if they don’t know what the resources are. So we try to help them identify some of the ailments, some of the things they’re not doing well. Now they can address that on their own.”

Master Sgt. Decarlo Johnson, a student in Class 67, said he was all green after the assessment. He said he arrived at USASMA fairly familiar with the Performance Triad and tried to implement optimizing techniques already.

He was, however, new to the body fat composition testing machines.

“I was interested to see what my body fat composition was, and I think they should do that more for Soldiers with the machine,” Johnson said. “That’s a great machine to have. If you had that in the unit, Soldiers would be more aware of their body fat and what they need to do to maintain” their weight.

Even though the concepts of the Performance Triad and resilience were familiar to him, he was excited to see the Executive Wellness Program for new sergeants major.

A student in the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy's Class 67 does a standing a jump during an assessment for the Executive Wellness Program. (Photo by Clifford Kyle Jones / NCO Journal)
A student in the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy’s Class 67 does a standing a jump during an assessment for the Executive Wellness Program. (Photo by Clifford Kyle Jones / NCO Journal)

“It’ll definitely help,” he said of the wellness program. “We have Soldiers who are overweight who can benefit from the nutrition and sleep (information) if they have problems with sleeping. If you get your sleep right, nutrition might be better, so I think it’ll benefit a lot in the unit.”

Lt. Col. Cyndi McLean, a physical therapist from the Executive Wellness Office at USASMA, said Johnson’s realization that each aspect of the Performance Triad affects the others is exactly what the program is trying to teach.

“If you consider one aspect of that triangle, if you’re doing really well, you’re probably going to have some benefits carry over to the other aspects of that triangle,” she said. “If you’re not doing so well in one of those corners of the triangle, you might be having some negative detriments in the other areas as well. The intent is to make sure that you’re optimizing each of those categories to make sure that you’re being the best Soldier that you possibly can.

“In this setting, we’re not only asking them to look at that for themselves personally but professionally,” McLean continued. “These are the senior leaders who are going to be in charge of those formations in just a few months. They’re going to be those sergeants major. Are they making sure their Soldiers are optimizing their performance with regards to sleep, activity, nutrition?”

Wellness assessment at USASMA reveals common problem: not enough sleep

Read more

By CLIFFORD KYLE JONES
NCO Journal

When representatives from the Executive Wellness Center assessed Class 67 at the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy recently, they found themselves doling out the same advice to many of the sergeants-major-to-be: Get more sleep.

Lt. Col. Cyndi McLean was one of three medical professionals who reviewed students’ responses to a questionnaire about healthy habits related to the three elements of the Performance Triad — activity, nutrition and sleep.

McLean is a physical therapist and said one problem area came up over and over again.

“I would love to say that it was activity,” she said, but many of the students’ biggest shortcoming was sleep.

“A lot of them don’t realize what optimal sleep is,” she said. “They don’t realize healthy hygiene habits. It’s something that is very fixable. I think that we all sometimes jump to more of a clinical or medical diagnosis: ‘I have sleep apnea.’ Well, maybe there’s some room for improvement there and some things that we can do to help you in that category and not just give it a test, give it a label, give it a diagnosis. We really want to help you through that process to truly optimize your sleep.”

A student in the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy's Class 67 has his body fat composition checked. (Photo by Clifford Kyle Jones / NCO Journal)
A student in the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy’s Class 67 has his body fat composition checked. (Photo by Clifford Kyle Jones / NCO Journal)

At the beginning of their school year, the more than 600 students of Class 67 took part in the first assessments of the office’s new Executive Wellness Program. The program is intended to bring the Performance Triad and resilience training together to help the senior noncommissioned officers become better Soldiers and leaders.

McLean said that not getting enough sleep can be the root of many other performance problems. If Soldiers sleep better, she said, they start to see benefits in other areas, such as improved eating and activity levels and reduced anxiety.

Lt. Col. Devvon Bradley, a licensed clinical social worker who also took part in the assessments, agreed that sleep is the linchpin for performance.

“It’s interesting because, in here, every time I see a sleep problem up front, it leads to the nutrition issues and then the activity at the end,” he said. “There are pain issues and there are also dietary issues, almost like a direct correlate. If there are no sleep issues up front, it’s less likely that there are nutrition problems and less likely that there are physical problems — pain issues — at the end.

Lt. Col. Cyndi McLean, a physical therapist, speaks with a student in the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy's Class 67 during an assessment by the Executive Wellness Program. (Photo by Clifford Kyle Jones / NCO Journal)
Lt. Col. Cyndi McLean, a physical therapist, speaks with a student in the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy’s Class 67 during an assessment by the Executive Wellness Program. (Photo by Clifford Kyle Jones / NCO Journal)

“The connection between sleep, activity and nutrition? There’s no doubt in my mind about it,” he continued. “It’s a triad, and each one contributes to the other. If you can help one, you can help the others. It looks like sleep is in the lead, in terms of if you fix it first, you have a better chance of fixing the other stuff.”

McLean said that sleep issues not only lead to problems in other areas but also noted that not sleeping well can make it harder to resolve Soldiers’ other problems.

“If I see that you have a pain issue, but you’re not willing to address your sleep habits, I’m not going to be able to get you as good as I possibly could,” she said. “Your prognosis is going to be on the lesser side. Once those people open up (about sleep), it’s amazing how much of their chronic pain, their aches, their issues like that get better as well.”

As McLean, Bradley and registered dietitian Capt. Michelle Stone reviewed Class 67’s questionnaires, the future sergeants major were categorized as green, amber or red in each of the three Performance Triad areas.

“What I’m seeing on people’s faces is the lightbulb going on,” Bradley said.

Lt. Col. Devvon Bradley, a licensed clinical social worker, left, speaks with a student in the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy's Class 67 during an assessment for the Executive Wellness Program. (Photo by Clifford Kyle Jones / NCO Journal)
Lt. Col. Devvon Bradley, a licensed clinical social worker, left, speaks with a student in the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy’s Class 67 during an assessment for the Executive Wellness Program. (Photo by Clifford Kyle Jones / NCO Journal)

Many of the NCOs didn’t realize they were red in the sleep category, he said, and now they not only know they have a problem but also know where to get help.

Sgt. 1st Class Darin E. Elkins, the NCO in charge of the Executive Wellness Center, coordinated and led the assessments, and he saw the same lightbulbs turn on.

“Once you identify an area where you’re not doing well, you think, ‘Oh, I didn’t realize that. Oh, I didn’t realize that taking in two or three cups of coffee or energy drinks at 6 p.m. is impacting my sleep, which is impacting my cognitive abilities, which is impacting my output,’ ” Elkins said. “Once we’ve identified it for them and say here’s a way to better optimize these things that they’re doing, then they can start making the changes. If you always do what you’ve always done, you get the same outcomes.”

The assessments were just the beginning of the program. Throughout the school year, the students of Class 67 will be given more training on the Performance Triad and resilience, and Bradley expects their personal realizations and training will pay dividends well beyond these particular NCOs.

“They’re leaders in the Army,” Bradley said, “so when they go back out to their units, they will push the same message of science and wellness.”

Commentary: The Army has a sleep problem. Here’s how to fix it

Read more

NCO Journal staff report

Army Maj. Jeff Jager and Former Marine Corps Sgt. Aaron Kennedy say the Army has a sleep deprivation problem in a commentary published in the Army Times.

“Studies show sleep deprivation offers effects equal to drinking alcohol, and continued lack of sleep has the potential of being even more deadly,” Jager and Kennedy write. “We would never allow a drunken Soldier to lead an ambush, so why do we consider it acceptable or even admirable to send one with lack of sleep into life-threatening situations?

“The Army’s culture of sleep deprivation begins during basic training, although the Center for Initial Military Training has taken steps recently to incorporate additional sleep into the platform,” the continued. “It continues through the first unit of assignment, where we interrupt sleep with training and other duties until going without rest becomes ingrained in our Soldiers.”

Jager and Kennedy note that the Army is attempting to address sleep problems with its Performance Triad, but a survey they conducted of active-duty and reserve-component Soldiers found that nearly 42 percent had never heard of the triad and that 18 percent didn’t agree with it. They offer some suggestions for fixing the military’s sleep deprivation problems, including raising awareness and enforcing sleep standards.

Read the article.

Game studio helps keep Army outreach, education high-tech

By CLIFFORD KYLE JONES
NCO Journal

America’s Army is a high-tech organization. “America’s Army,” the video game, is testament to this fact.

The Army Game Studio at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, continually works to develop and enhance its educational, outreach and training tools, including the popular combat simulator game for computer platforms  that first launched in 2002. The studio may be best known for the free game, but it has developed a wide range of tools to help deliver the Army’s message and help Soldiers achieve their missions.

“America’s Army” is regularly updated with new missions and maps and has been wildly popular with gamers since its launch. During loading screens, it plays Army marketing videos, and the studio reports that 2 million views of those messages are seen each month.

“That’s more than we can find anywhere else” in the Army, said Marsha Berry, the Army Game Studio’s software manager. “‘America’s Army’ is really helping to share the Army’s message through those videos and through just playing the game and learning about Army values, rules of engagement, Army technology.”

Jeff Sallas, software engineer test lead and support, demonstrates augmented reality technology at the Army Game Studio at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama. Augmented reality places images and effects on physical items such as brochures when they are viewed through an application. [Photo by Clifford Kyle Jones / NCO Journal]
Jeff Sallas, software engineer test lead and support, demonstrates augmented reality technology at the Army Game Studio at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama. Augmented reality places images and effects on physical items such as brochures when they are viewed through an application. [Photo by Clifford Kyle Jones / NCO Journal]
AR_MainIn the latest version, called “Proving Grounds,” players take on the role of an 11B infantryman in a long-range combined-arms reconnaissance unit that embarks on special operations missions behind enemy lines. Players can engage in small unit tactical maneuvers and training that echoes true-to-life Army scenarios.

Real-world simulations are a staple of many of the Army Game Studios products. In the center of the studio at Redstone Arsenal, a full-scale, fully “armed” HMMWV  simulator sits on a moving platform in front of 180 degrees of large screens that allow visitors and programmers to “travel” through various scenarios and missions. The high-tech console is an outgrowth of “America’s Army,” and it shows off the studio’s programming skills and training capabilities.

“The point of this lab is to highlight our capabilities, to show some of our products, so that when customers come through, they can see the technology, get hands on with the technology,” Berry said. “And maybe it will help them come up with a solution for what they’re looking for.”

The Army Game Studio’s customers are representatives from the Army. Berry says the Army and Congress are very careful how they spend taxpayer money and want to ensure that any investment in technology provides a significant return on the investment. The Army has funded training projects to help keep Soldiers safe, such as several full-size MRAP simulators that give Soldiers experience maneuvering the top-heavy vehicles to avoid real-world crashes and rollovers.

The simulator, called the Transportable, Reconfigurable Integrated Crew Trainer, or TRICT, “is a really good example of all of our different capabilities merged into one product,” said Frank Blackwell, director of the Army Game Studio.

Originally requested by Special Operations Command, the devices required work from both the hardware and the software development teams. The Army had training devices, “like a skeleton” of the vehicle, that helped train Soldiers how to get out of a vehicle after a rollover, Blackwell said.

“It’s valuable training, but it wasn’t exactly like the vehicles they were using,” he said. “SOCOM wanted a more accurate representation of the exact vehicle.”

The studio modeled two versions of the MRAP, the RG33 and the M-ATV, set them on a motion platform, and simulated several large environments using the gaming engine from “America’s Army,” including settings in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“Soldiers could actually drive around in those areas,” Blackwell said, “training virtually in a real place.”

The windows in the TRICTs are LCD screens, so Soldiers are completely immersed during the training.

“Through the windshield, you’re actually driving through the game,” he said. “Then all the bumps and going up hills and everything translates to the motion platform.”

The scenario is controlled at an instructor station, and the scenarios change each time.

“Instead of just a weapon trainer sitting by itself, a trainer that just teaches you egress, a trainer that only teaches you [Blue Force Tracking], it integrates all those trainings into one scenario,” Berry said. “It makes it more immersive. It makes it more realistic. It makes it more efficient.”

Building on previous successes and technology is a key component of the lab’s work.

“That’s one of the things that we do really well at Army Game Studio,” Berry said. “Everything we develop goes into a depository that we can reuse and repurpose, so it makes development quicker, easier and cheaper for the customer, because once we develop it once, it’s in our library and we can just grab it and use it in other applications.”

The "America's Army" video game is one of the Army Game Studio's most popular products. (Courtesy of Army Game Studio)
The “America’s Army” video game is one of the Army Game Studio’s most popular products. (Courtesy of Army Game Studio)

That iterative improvement and development is a thread that runs throughout the lab’s products. One of its first projects was the Javelin Basic Skills Trainer, which was developed almost 20 years ago. The software used in that product engendered one of the studio’s latest applications, “Go Army Edge Football ,” which helps coaches and players at all levels with training and play development.

“A component of the Javelin Basic Skills Trainer is you would create exercises — there may be 100 or more different exercises,” Blackwell said. “An exercise is a terrain, so a part of the world, and there would be target paths and different types of target paths. So part of that software that we built into it was an exercise editor. Not only would we field it with a set, but wherever it was deployed, they could even create their own exercises. You could have a pretty much unlimited set of exercises you could train against.”

That software, Blackwell realized, could be applied to sports training, allowing coaches to set up formations themselves to incorporate into their training. The Javelin training included enemies, which had parallels to on-the-field opponents.

The “Go Army Edge Football” application has only been in widespread use a relatively short time, but it has already had a large impact on outreach and recruiting and has generated related products involving soccer, and even marching bands.

Like many of the studio’s latest projects, it also has a virtual reality component, so formations and scenarios can be seen in 3D through an Oculus Rift or other virtual reality device. The Army Game Studio is working on other ways to use virtual reality to enhance training and what’s known as augmented reality to boost outreach efforts.

Augmented reality uses technology to enhance or supplement information in the physical environment. For instance, a recruiting brochure aimed at science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) students includes a popup robot when viewed through a mobile phone.

“Right now we’re focused on video games and informational apps, but we’re starting to get a little more into the educational communities and STEM applications,” Berry said. “We’re always looking for ideas about how we can do that to benefit the Army.”

The Army Game Studio has the capacity, but Soldiers’ ideas are always welcome, she said. The studio can be contacted directly, or Soldiers can work through their commands to present ideas.

“Our customer is always looking for really great ideas,” Berry said. And it’s the Soldiers and the Army who benefit.

Football app helps recruiters reach student-athletes

By CLIFFORD KYLE JONES
NCO Journal

Recruiters have a new tool to reach high-school athletes, courtesy of Army Game Studio.

The “Go Army Edge Football” application gives football coaches and players a valuable, high-tech means to improve on-field performance and maximize training time. The application gives Army recruiters a valuable inside track with high-school athletics programs to foster relationships and deliver the Army’s message.

What would become the free application was originally suggested by the Army Game Studio’s director, Frank Blackwell, and was based on the software used in one of the development lab’s first projects, the Javelin Basic Skills Trainer. That weapons training product included simulation software and enemy tracking that was easily converted into sports scenarios, Blackwell said.

Marsha Berry, the studio’s software manager, said, “It was hard for us to sell it to the Army, because the Army has to have ROI, return on investment. [Products] have to have a reason and a justification. Anything, especially in the sports arena, these days, has to be justified quite a bit up on [Capitol] Hill .

“We try to keep that in mind when we’re building our outreach products, because if it doesn’t give the Army a good return on investment, then we can’t fund it, …” she said. “This is targeted for recruiters to use it to get into schools, get into areas that they may or may not be in already. It’s basically a digital playbook, except we’ve applied some 3D animations to the playbook.”

Blackwell built the idea for the app from the Javelin training system — before there was a formal Army Game Studio — but it took several years and some fortunate relationships to get the app to its current state.

“We ended up becoming the Army Game Studio, and we had the capability but we still didn’t have the wherewithal or the funding,” he said. “It was through a cooperative resource and development agreement with the Army football team at West Point, and they funded a trainer to teach the quarterback to run the triple option (offense). …

“All the academies were running the triple option at that time, and they were running about 62 percent on their progressions,” he said. “After running on the software we developed, they were running about 90 percent. And, Army went to a bowl game during that time, the first bowl victory I think in 25 years. That was no Army money, just booster club money. At that point we had enough of an asset to really show what you could do with this technology.”

Army beat Southern Methodist University 16-14 in the 2010 Armed Forces Bowl.

Army Game Studio designer Tony Donatellie demonstrates some of the tools available in "Go Army Edge Football." (Photo by Clifford Kyle Jones)
Army Game Studio designer Tony Donatellie demonstrates some of the tools available in “Go Army Edge Football.” The screen shows a play from a player’s perspective. (Photo by Clifford Kyle Jones)

To further develop the app, the Army Game Studio received input from the NFL. Blackwell said the Army had a connection with the National Football League through a former Army player, Anthony Noto, who was a star linebacker while at West Point and who would become the NFL’s chief financial officer. Noto is now the chief financial officer for Twitter. Four years ago, the Army Game Studio started working with the New England Patriots, and now, it partners with the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts use the app with multiple position groups, Blackwell said.

Former NFL quarterback Brett Favre used the app while he was the offensive coordinator for the Oak Grove High School Warriors in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Oak Grove was one of the studio’s educational partners, Blackwell said.

Army Game Studio designer Tony Donatellie helped develop the application and continues to work to improve it. It’s designed to be flexible enough to fit the needs of any coach at any level — high school, college or pro — but easy enough to use as soon as you download it.

“We actually ship the app with a pro-style offense, a spread offense and a wing T offense already in the app for them as example playbooks,” he said. “That way, any coach, if he doesn’t want to draw, that’s fine. He can just load the app, find a drill and just run it.

“We kind of capture the high school coaches’ attention, get them in the door. Then once they see this stuff, they start saying, ‘Well, in my defense, this defensive end is two steps in, so let me go change that,’ ” Donatellie continued. “We slowly bring them in so they have a starting point, instead of giving them a blank slate and saying, ‘Go nuts.’ That doesn’t really work.”

Once they’re comfortable with the app, though, coaches can draw offensive or defensive plays just like they would on a white board, except they’re using their finger or their mouse. And instead of X’s and O’s, they’re using images of players whose uniforms can be customized. When the coach hits “Play,” all the players move.

“Now whatever play I want to draw, I can see it happen on a virtual field, like it’s a video game,” Donatellie said.

The app also offers a variety of camera angles as routes are run, including the view normally used when reviewing film and views from each player’s helmet.

“For any play I want to draw in the app, I can see it from any players’ perspective,” Donatellie said. “Now the coach is able to be there with the player, see the same things, talk about the same things, side by side.”

Army Game Studio designer Tony Donatellie demonstrates some of the tools available in "Go Army Edge Football." (Photo by Clifford Kyle Jones)
Army Game Studio designer Tony Donatellie demonstrates some of the tools available in “Go Army Edge Football.” (Photo by Clifford Kyle Jones)

Access to a team’s plays is available from the cloud, so plays can be drawn up and shown to players before practice, Donatellie said. They might review the formations Sunday night, for instance, so they’re ready for practice Monday, he said. The view from the app can also be projected on a screen, so coaches and players can review things together during practice.

“Once you get a load of plays in there, you can start using those to make drills,” he said. “Drills are a guided mode, like a flash card system you can use, so now you can start quizzing your players on the plays.”

Donatellie said the app has helped teams spend less time on the practice field for formation recognition, so they can spend their time on the field doing other types of training.

The Indianapolis Colts “said they don’t even do formation training on the field anymore,” he said.

The app offers coaches robust technology for free that many programs and schools couldn’t afford otherwise, but it also delivers the Army’s message.

“Every time something loads, we show them a little Army commercial,” Donatellie said. “We have the U.S. Army star, and all this [links] to goarmy.com. We have a Twitter account, a Facebook, Instagram. We run on all devices and we communicate on all mediums, so we’re trying to reach as many coaches and football players as possible.”

Any time a player older than 17 expresses an in-app interest in the Army, a recruiter is notified.

Before this fall’s football season started, more than 4,000 teams had been created in the app, and it has already provided recruiters access to some student-athletes who were previously off-limits. Some schools had policies that didn’t allow traditional visits by recruiters, but because of interest in the app, recruiters have been able to develop a relationship with coaches and players.

“The Army loves football players because they already understand working as a team, overcoming adversity, working out, working to a plan,” Donatellie said. “Those are all very Army-like virtues.”

Donatellie said that even as the football app rolls out to more teams and more Army recruiters are trained on how to use it to conduct their outreach efforts, the Army Game Studio is working on repurposing the engine to reach even more students.

The studio has a version for soccer in beta testing and is working on a version for marching bands. The soccer app required some changes, Berry said, because unlike starting and stopping plays in football, soccer consists of a series of possessions.

“Then band is completely different,” she said. “Each one brings some new challenges, and it’s kind of fun to solve those problems.”

Some of those lessons have helped improve the football application. Having to track opponents on the screen during soccer possessions led the studio to develop a “ghosting” visual.

“And once we saw that in soccer, we all stood up and said we have to have that in football!” Donatellie said.

Berry said as the app becomes more widely used and promoted, interest has swelled.

“Coaches are calling recruiters,” she said. And, Army recruiting events that include demonstrations of the app are drawing large crowds to previously lightly visited booths.

The Army Game Studio regularly reaches out to recruiters to hear their success stories and how they have used the app to reach potential Soldiers. The studio is collecting best-use scenarios and building awareness among recruiters and coaches, but the app also shows what the Army is capable of, Berry said.

“It shows the Army is high-tech,” she said. “It shows the type of technology the Army uses every day with training devices like these.”