Army Arcade Recruiting Kids in Philly

Next to the Gap and the video stores at the Franklin Mills Mall, there's a brand new video arcade. But this is run by the military.

A simulated Humvee mission in Iraq or a Blackhawk air-support flight are just fun for 19-year-old childhood pals Zack Zeigler and Spencer Elmore who stumbled in a new “arcade” while killing time at the skate park and other familiar stores at the mall in Northeast Philadelphia.

"Honestly, we were walking by and were like, 'What is this place?'" the teens said.

Now, with two years of college and big worries about the job market, they were heading home from an unplanned trip to the mall with a plan for the future.

"They started talkin' to us and I guess we're probably gonna join the Army now!"

“They” are the staff of the first Army Experience Center, a $13 million installation which is the size of three basketball courts. It's filled with high-end computer game stations, war simulators and an Army sales pitch…if you ask for it.

“Our goal is not to get anybody. We want people to come in and learn about their army," said Sgt. Mario Ashe.

It's the experimental new effort that's pulling in about as many new recruits as the five traditional recruiting offices it replaced, with no hard sell.

"If they think it's for them they can get their questions answered and pursue it further.  But if not, that's fine too," said Major Larry Dillard.

This approach does have its critics. They question whether it trivializes warfare or glorifies it by turning it into a collection of games.

However, Zack says he knows the difference between war games and real fighting.

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