Aug 1, 2010
A controversial Army Experience Center in a northeast Philadelphia shopping mall will soon close its doors after a two-year pilot program. With regard to its military outreach efforts, the multimillion-dollar facility has declared “mission accomplished,” but opponents question the Army’s version of reality.
At the center, teenage boys sit in a row of Army-green recliners facing flat-screen monitors. They square off in video war games like the popular Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. Once visitors register and prove they’re 13 years or older, they’re given free access to the facility’s array of war-themed games.
Army Experience Center spokesman Capt. John Kirchgessner says the center has proved more effective than traditional recruiting methods. Using technology to create a relationship with the public “is a much better way to share our Army story than to simply smile and dial and ask someone if they thought about joining lately,” he says.
The facility also houses three simulators: Apache and Blackhawk helicopters plus an armored combat Humvee. John Gallato, 18, and three of his 15-year-old friends sit atop the Army vehicle eagerly waiting for their mission to begin. With a lifelike machine gun in hand, Gallato says experiences like this will help prepare him for the future.