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Inside the Gates: Air Force turns to video games to find new recruits

Published: Apr. 7, 2021 at 4:02 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) -Video games provide challenges, and fun. The U.S. Air Force now uses video games for another purpose-finding recruits.

The service launched ECHO, its Enhanced Cognitive Human Ops program in January.

“Our target demographics, they’re online playing games,” said Major Jason Wyche with the Air Force Recruiting Service at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas. “It’ll introduce them to some of the skill sets you’ll need to be an airman. Then it will also showcase some different career fields to them.”

ECHO tests skills through a variety of contests that focus on intelligence and hand-eye coordination. They include how to assemble teams for certain missions, and how to carry out those assignments.

The program would have been featured during the Air Force’s Mobile Tours around the country, but the pandemic changed those plans.

“We realized ‘well, people can’t come to events. Can we bring the events to them,’” Wyche said.

The Air Force primarily targets people 17-24 years old. Close to 5,000 people have played ECHO. Recruiters believe the program provides another benefit.

“It can also be used as a tool to instill confidence in youth,” said MSGT. Zachary Atkinson, also of the Air Force Recruiting Service. “They may be considering something but don’t have a lot of faith in their abilities.”

People can play ECHO as often as they like, and keep adding to their score. Players may also earn something else — a possible career in the United States Air Force.

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