Wardynski’s Other Digital Initiative

After living thirty years in Huntsville, I am fully aware that there are two things one must never do:

  • question the ethics of naming a city’s civic center for a Nazi, and
  • suggest that someone who chose a career in the military isn’t necessarily better, braver, and more worthy of respect than someone who didn’t.

But what the hell.

I am here to tell you that the good Colonel Wardynski’s military career included no combat service. His claim to fame is conceiving a free computer game, America’s Army for high school kids (and younger) to entice them into the Army, and that has meant in all too many cases sending them into brutal warfare — something about which Wardynski has no personal experience.

Have you ever wondered why suicide rates are skyrocketing among active troops and veterans? Why post-traumatic stress disorder is a huge problem in the same population?

I don’t know about your kids, but mine have seen exactly one dead body — the casketed, embalmed, made-up body of their 93-year-old grandfather, a veteran of WWII (Infantry, captured in N Africa and POW in Germany for years; later a Reservist). They’ve never seen anyone dying or being born or seriously injured.

But they have played their share of shoot ’em up video games.

I simply have a feeling that there isn’t much in common between the two, that is, being on the ground in battle and in your bedroom playing a game.

But what do I know? I’ve not been in combat. And neither has the Colonel.

The difference between the Colonel and me is that I have not enticed kids to go into deadly situations that I haven’t or wouldn’t go into myself.

So when Wardynski in his role as the mastermind of America’s Army proclaims, “We want kids to come into the Army and feel like they’ve already been there,” I want to know where is this there.

An air-conditioned, fully secure building on a military base?

In America’s Army,¬†

“soldiers are not massacred in bloody fire typical of most video games, or for that matter, real combat. When hit, bullet wounds resemble puffs of red smoke, and players can take up to four hits before being killed. To further protect youth, concerned parents can turn on optional controls that sanitize the violence even more – shots produce no blood whatsoever and dead soldiers just sit down. This presentation of war contrasts to the much more grisly reality unfolding every day in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

And isn’t this of interest, considering how important it is to Wardynski for your child to be online using Pearson software? America’s Army

“records players’ data and statistics in a massive database called Andromeda, which records every move a player makes and links the information to their screen name. With this information tracking system, gameplay serves as a military aptitude tester, tracking overall kills, kills per hour, a player’s virtual career path, and other statistics. According to Colonel Wardynski, players who play for a long time and do extremely well may “just get an e-mail seeing if [they’d] like any additional information on the Army.”

While the Army initially worked on development of the game, first released in 2002, in 2005,

“the America’s Army developers partnered with the Software Engineering Directorate and the Army’s Aviation and Missile Research Development Engineering Center in Huntsville, Alabama, to manage the commercial game development process and use the America’s Army platform to create government training and simulations.”

Now its development has been outsourced to private corporations. Sound familiar?

Wardynski spent his military career sitting behind a desk figuring how cheaply kids could be persuaded to do what he never had to do himself (and interestingly, while his son has joined the military, he serves in the Coast Guard).

His job put him at less personal risk than that of anyone in a profession who potentially comes into daily contact with strangers’ bodily fluids, you know, like medical professionals obviously, but also police officers and fire fighters, — and teachers.

So the next time you think, oh, W is a colonel so he must be better, braver, more patriotic, more worthy, etc. than the rest of us average mortals, imagine what it must be like for 18-year-olds to go into Afghanistan thinking they know all about what it is like to be in a firefight because, after all, they’ve spent hundreds or thousands of hours playing the game that makes them “feel like they’ve already been there.”

At least in the old days when there were real human beings — recruiters — talking to kids, the kids had a chance to ask questions and the recruiter could make the reality of the commitment clearer to those kids he perceived as having a naive view of what to expect.

But, hey, using computer games is so much more cost effective than having real people involved in the process.

Come to think of it, the human recruiter and potential recruit relationship isn’t totally unlike that of a flesh-and-blood teacher and student, now is it?

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2 thoughts on “Wardynski’s Other Digital Initiative

  1. I remember the Army Experience, in fact they had it set up at the JetPlex during the airshow which the little boy was tragically killed during the freak thunderstorm during the show.

    I took the Army Experience although I was well past the recruiting age. It was an elaborate setup in a inflatable building. The building contained a number of static Humvees with M-60s mounted on them. Many large projection screens, elaborate projectors and realistic props for barriers and buildings. The one thing I remember most about the Army Experience was the ambush scenario. The street we passed along in our scenario was surrounded by enemy with AKs, roadside bombs and RPGs and there we were in our rag top Humvees. Somehow we survived. Apparently we sent out a rain of steel enough that we made it back alive. The exhibit was cute, but is far from any educationally significant tool that would have any real value for anything. Since Wardynski made it to Col. he obviously impressed some of the Army head shed, but as a Superintendent of a school district he has been a Charlie Foxtrot.

    Oh, about that inflatable building. I attended the Air Show the following day and when the storm hit, the wind was strong enough that it blew under the bottom of the inflatable. This cause the building to deflate/collapse and I saw the wind rip the front of the building up into the air exposing the electronics, static exhibits, simulators to the sky and the top of the building blew back towards the airport terminals. It was a sad thing to see and I know that the spirits of all involved in the project had to be deflated as well.

  2. Interesting postings. I thought I smelled rats and these articles prove that. Keep up the good work and investigative reporting for us. Hopefully one day we will have a School Board that does more than be “yes men” for the Superintendent or realtors simply seeking to feather their nest.

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