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Recruiting is no game for Army

The Army is releasing new additions to its popular, free PC game and looks to the Iraq conflict for future material.

LOS ANGELES--Forget the posters with a stern-faced Uncle Sam beckoning you. The Army has gone high-tech to recruit the next generations of soldiers.

The Army kicked off a new kind of recruiting effort a year ago with the introduction of "America's Army," a free PC game meant to replicate various aspects of military life, from basic training to tactical firefights. The game has been a wild success, with more than 1.6 million registered players to date.

The Army hopes to expand on that popularity with new additions to the game that emphasize "special ops" soldiers such as engineers and medics, roles ignored by commercial military-themed games that strictly focus on shooting.

"Kids think that handling a rifle is all there is to the military, and it's really such a small part," Col. E. Casey Wardynski, the project's director, said Wednesday during an interview at the Electronics Entertainment Expo (E3) trade show, where the game was unveiled last year.

Look for future additions to "America's Army" to include scenarios drawn from the recent invasion of Iraq. The war offered numerous lessons for would-be soldiers, Wardynski said, such as the conflicts involved in military vehicles sharing the same road as cars of fleeing civilians shortly after several U.S. soldiers were killed by car bombs.

"As a soldier, what do you do with those civilian vehicles?" he said. "That becomes a really interesting problem and an area where you really need to apply reasoning and sound judgment. That's what being a soldier is about, not just shooting straight."

As a result of such scenarios, Wardynski said players can learn about military life in a way they never would have otherwise,

"The goal was to make sure the Army is included in the set of options kids consider after high school, and we've really accomplished that," Wardynski said. "This game put the Army into the field of popular culture and made it something kids at least think about when they're considering their options."