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U.S. Army Sets Up in Second Life

While the rest of the U.S. government is typically wary to embrace new trends in technology, the Army has always been quick to try new ideas and strategies that may lead to higher recruitment numbers. Aside from the massive advertising campaign, the Army, and the rest of the Armed Forces blitz the public with on TV and Radio. The Army also uses video games like "America’s Army" to entice the willing into military service.

The Army has now taken it one step further, and will open several "islands" to the public in Second Life. "Over the next 30 to 45 days you might, if you’re one of them Second Life avatar dudes that likes to go populate islands within Second Life, you will find an Army island in Second Life," said Gen. William S. Wallace during an Army Science Conference.

One of the two islands (or bases?) it plans to open will act as a virtual recruitment center, offering information on what the Army offers and how to get in contact with a real-life recruiter. The second island plans to offer a virtual Army experience, with activities like parachuting, rappelling off of towers, as well as firing weapons. "If you perform well in the activities you get points and those points can be used to buy virtual T-shirts and baseball caps," said Gen. Wallace to Danger Room.

Gen. Wallace, who heads up the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) division, explained why the Army is now targeting Second Life. "there’s about 4 million young people that routinely interface in Second Life. [That’s] the age group of the young people who we’re trying to encourage to join the military."

While firing a virtual M16 and jumping out of virtual planes might sound fun, it’s 100-percent business for the Army. With two active wars going on overseas, and a less than popular administration leaving the White House, recruitment numbers are much lower than anyone in the Armed Forces would like. However, this is not the Army’s first foray into the virtual world. Along with the game America’s Army, the Army has expressed interest in creating its own sort of MMORPG, and already uses a number of virtual training programs and simulators internally.