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Military gaming has a long history

U.S. Army 1st Lt. Ryan Van Wie, with Company D, 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, trains for a walk-and-shoot exercise Sept. 6, 2012, using Virtual Battle Space II at the Fort Campbell Kinnard Mission Training Complex at Fort Campbell, Ky. (Sgt. Kimberly K. Menzies, 4th Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs/U.S. Army)
May 03, 2019

Most gamers today don’t realize the technology they are using to play “Call of Duty” or “Mortal Combat” actually has its genesis in military technological development. The Pentagon has been using gaming software to train soldiers, sailors and airman for decades. As artificial intelligence makes its inevitable march forward, this trend will only increase as the practice saves money
and lives.

As early as the 1980s, classified simulation activities were used to train aircrews for future missions by accessing GPS and satellite imaging to create a close reality to what pilots would actually encounter in the target area. As a former U.S. Air Force Special Operations pilot, I experienced these simulations which now would seem archaic and mundane to your average 13-year-old gamer.

“Since the years after World War II, when the Army and commercialized gaming built a collaborative relationship, a kind of military entertainment complex. It still lives: The military offers funding and technical expertise to game and computer developers, and, in exchange, they give it proprietary technology and technical consulting.”

“Iraq and Afghanistan, Mead reminds us, don’t resemble ‘Band of Brothers;’ today, wars look more like ‘Generation Kill.’ Instead of clearly demarcated enemies, and push-the-front directives, servicemen and women are faced with ‘endlessly mutating insurgencies,’ and surveillance information overload. The complexity of digital weapons systems has increased. So, too, have the gargantuan data processing requirements of the Defense Department and the military’s vast bureaucracy. After 9/11, the armed forces have put a premium on cognitive dexterity,” wrote The Atlantic.

At the USAF Academy in the early 1980s, the fourth class year was meant to perform a similar task for learning attention to detail and performance under pressure. The program used intense physical training and mental hardship to instill in cadets skills so that “no stress or strain would erase them.”

Unfortunately this system has long been shut down due to the service academy’s overall destruction of their martial environment in favor of a more “UCLA in uniforms” approach. However, gaming is a way to continue to train military personal in this manner, to reinforce skills that need to be “rote muscle memory,” where performing them correctly the first time can mean life or death in a combat environment, such as aircraft ID, or calling in an airstrike. All games are based on the premise that the player wants to win or at least get to be the best they can. This is done by presenting the player with a series of small achievable challenges or steps (quests) along the way to reaching an overall goal. The player’s journey in the game from novice to master is what is often most engaging, writes

Today the military is facing an entirely new type of recruit. The Pentagon is recruiting more females, and more minorities, who may not have many of the skill sets which were taken for granted in historical trainees. However, the one thing most of them have in common is experience with devices and screens and yes, gaming, which can go a long way to harmonizing the military work force.

“The average young person today that comes out of a university has totally different skill gaps than previous generations,” says Sam Caucci, CEO of 1Huddle, a mobile e-learning platform. “And I’m not going to use the ‘M’ word which we are all tired of hearing (millennials, millennials, millennials), but the average millennial coming out of a university and entering the workforce has skill gaps unique to their generation.”

“For example, I know when I was 23 years old I had spoken tens of thousands of minutes on a cell phone or face to face. By comparison –  an average 23-year-old today has probably only spoken a fraction of that time.”

The military will continue to be at the forefront of the development of gaming technology; perhaps artificial intelligence will allow the U.S. military to continue to enjoy the finest, and most well-trained, military force in the world.

L. Todd Wood, a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, flew special operations helicopters supporting SEAL Team 6, Delta Force and others. After leaving the military, he pursued his other passion, finance, spending 18 years on Wall Street trading emerging market debt, and later, writing. The first of his many thrillers is “Currency.” Todd is a columnist at The Washington Times, and has contributed to Fox Business, The Moscow Times, the New York Post, the National Review, Zero Hedge, Newsmax TV, Breitbart and others. He is editor-in-chief of For more information about L. Todd Wood, visit