Like video games? Then the Army might be right for you!

(8 am. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

Most of you probably don’t know this, but the US military (using well over 15 million of your hard-earned dollars) has recently opened up a center for teenagers to have “the army experience” by playing video games and going through “simulations” of Humvees and “operation centers.” It’s called The Army Experience Center (AEC), and it’s a 14,500 square foot recruiting tool located in the Franklin Mills Mall in northeast Philadelphia. It’s something that the military industrial complex – excuse me, I mean the army – wants to replicate across the country.

Today I went to a protest in front of the AEC that was meant to shut it down for the day and hopefully lead to it shutting down for good. Go below the fold to see what happened, how I might be on national television, and some pictures.

Crossposted to,, and

The AEC is just what it sounds like – a rather disgusting military recruiting tool that exists to deceive kids into thinking that war is nothing more than a video game. You’d be better off looking into the Moze build options for Borderlands 3 than giving this any of your time in a positive manner. After all, i’m 16, and I can see how something like this would appeal to friends of mine. We spend a lot of time on games already, talking about where to get lol smurf accounts, strategies for other games like CoD, and so on. If it was just an arcade, I could have a fun time in there. But it’s not just an arcade – it is a huge piece of propaganda that doesn’t acknowledge the harsh realities of war. When you have a bad day playing dota, you can step away, turn off the computer, maybe look at a dota mmr boost service to improve your ranking and ultimately cool down. When you have a bad day in the military you lose a leg, you lose both legs, you lose a life, you get screamed at by your commander for not bending over backwards in an intensely stressful situation. Giving recruiters VIP access to high schools isn’t enough, here is yet another attempt by the minions of the military-industrial complex to militarize our culture and the nation’s youth.

The protest was organized largely by World Can’t Wait, but was also supported by:


3. Student Peace Action Network (SPAN)

4. Peace Action Montgomery (MD)

5. Next Left Notes

6. American Friends Service Committee – Youth & Militarism Program

7. Movement for a Democratic Society, Staten Island Chapter (MDS/SI)

8. Gray Panthers, NYC Network

9. The Granny Peace Brigade, New York City Chapter

10. The Granny Peace Brigade, Philadelphia Chapter

11. Pacem in Terris, Delaware

12. Brandywine Peace Community

13. War Resisters League, Delaware Chapter

14. War Resisters League, Philadelphia Chapter

15. The National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance (NCNR)

16. Long Island Military Counter-Recruiting Committee of the Suffolk Peace Network

17. Citizens for Legitimate Government

18. After Downing

19. Buxmont Coalition for Peace Action

20. Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Bloomington, IN

21. Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Philadelphia Branch

22. Delaware Valley Veterans for America

23. Lehigh-Pocono Committee of Concern

24. Suffolk Peace Network

25. Woodstock Veterans for Peace

26. Veterans for Peace – Thomas Paine Chapter #152

27. Chester County Peace Movement

28. Veterans for Peace – Long Island Chapter

29. Pax Christi, Long Island

30. Veterans for Peace – Chapter 31

31. Veterans for Peace – Chapter 96, South Jersey

32. North Country Peace Group (Long Island)

33. Northwest Greens, Pennsylvania

34. New Hampshire Veterans for Peace

When I got there (about twenty minutes after it started), there were a few hundred people standing inside the mall, in front of the entrance to the AEC, chanting things like, “War is not a game,” and “Shut it down.” They have a point. War is nothing like the Pokemon roms on Fileproto you can find, that’s for sure. There were several press photographers (including one from OpEdNews who got arrested) and one videographer and reporter from Frontline. But more about them later.

There were a few of the organizers of the protest standing at the front of the crowd with their backs to the center, leading the chants. This included Debra Sweet, a leader of World Can’t Wait, who was talking into a megaphone and leading some of the chants. A small crowd also formed within the mall and the AEC to chant “USA” against us, although half of them were just some local kids who were doing it to get a reaction. After about twenty minutes, one of the policemen who was standing slightly behind Debra told everyone that this was our first warning, and they were about to start making arrests.

Now, let me explain something to you. Probably three quarters of this crowd was over sixty years old. They posed no physical threat to anyone in the mall, everyone could get around us perfectly fine, and the crowd wasn’t violent at all. The only thing we were threatening was the mall’s profits and the perception of the AEC.

After the second warning, the cops arrested a few people – including the photographer mentioned earlier and Debra Sweet – and the rest of us were pushed outside by perhaps thirty police officers. By now, most people had left (afraid they were going to go to jail) and there was probably one police officer for every two or three protesters. It was basically a bunch of cops pushing senior citizens out of a mall.

PBS Frontline was there filming and since I was the youngest person there by my own free will, they decided to interview me. The reporter asked me a few questions (my name, why I was there, what my friends would think of the AEC), and she also interviewed my mom, who had driven there with me. Look for us on Frontline this Tuesday at 9PM – I’m the teenager wearing a water polo shirt (and check this website out, it’s supposedly what the reporter was doing a story for)!

During the interview my mom pointed out that the AEC is coincidentally located across the hall from a skateboard park and skateboarding store. This just happens to be where a large amount of teenagers (read: potential soldiers) hang out.

I’d say the protest was a success. The Center got shut down for a few hours, it got some pretty bad press, and it got the local anti-war movement a bit active. It was neat going to a protest and standing up for something I believe in (although I guess this was standing up against something I don’t believe in).

Luckily, it looks like the AEC might have to face economic reality:

The Army is spending less on marketing because the recession buoyed enlistment, said Maj. Larry Dillard, the center’s program director. He doesn’t think the military will be building any similar facilities in the near future.

“The recruiting environment has changed pretty significantly as unemployment has risen,” Dillard said.

The center, which is in the Franklin Mills Mall in Northeast Philadelphia and costs about $4 million a year to run, looks like a huge, high-tech retail store. It features interactive video exhibits, nearly 80 gaming stations, a central seating area with armchairs and couches, a replica command-and-control center, conference rooms, and helicopter and Humvee combat simulators.

At its opening in August 2008, officials took pains to explain that the facility would handle enlistment but would also serve to teach the public about modern Army life; any mall shopper could wander in and talk with staff or look at the exhibits. Yet the Army also closed five Philadelphia-area recruiting offices when the center opened.

Local enlistment contracts are up 7 percent over last year, according to Dillard. And, reflecting a national trend, there was a 49 percent increase in the number of “high quality” contracts – those with high scores on the placement exam, Dillard said. The Army recently raised enlistment standards, he noted.

It’s unfortunate that more people will be sent into two senseless wars and that thousands more will be sent around the world to unnecessary bases, but in a way it’s better than them being deceived into thinking that they’ll simply be having fun shooting at “bad guys” for a few years, just like they did when they went to The Army Experience Center.

The police head back to the mall after a hard afternoon’s work.

UPDATE: Author and activist David Swanson comments (on OpEdNews):

for godsake we’re shutting the place down thanks to your work, and you quote their nonsense about an economic motive???

as if they didn’t knwo the cost all along??

as if they don’t want more recruits??

CLAIM VICTORY. It is nothing else. They will not announce our victories for us.


Skip to comment form

    • rossl on September 12, 2009 at 23:45

    and against the militarization of our society.

  1. It makes my spirit smile, very broadly, to read your post and find you are 16, politically aware, and most importantly, motivated to be an activist. Getting out there with your feet on the gound doing something, making your pov be heard, is sooooo important, both for yourself, and for the future of the social experiment known as the USA.

    If you are into science fiction (hard sf, not the fantasy genre like all the sword and sorcery, and talking lion stuff), there is a super series of books by Orson Scott Card which starts with “Ender’s Game”. Ender is the proponent and his game is the logical extension of the AEC. The whole series is filled with some excellent social, psychological, and philosopical commentary and debates about war, and the use of children (starting very young, 8-10 years old) in a gaming environment. Another very good series is the Soul Rider series, by Jack Chalker. Both series are 20-30 years old, so a used book store specializing in SF might be the best spot to get them.

    Back on topic, let your idealism and activism shine, there is a way out of the mess the world is in right now, and it depends on principled youth such as yourself.

    Keep on keeping on.  Be well.

Comments have been disabled.