The Army sure is getting their money's worth out of America's Army, a first-person shoot-em-up computer game developed as an innovative new military recruitment tool.Now the Pentagon is planning to use America's Army's gaming platform as a basic skills trainer on the new Common Remotely Operated Weapons Station (CROWS). And why not? Use a video game to train troops on...well, a video game. CROWS is a system that allows soldiers to manipulate a Humvee mounted variety of medium to heavy weaponary from the relative safety of inside the vehicle. It's just one of many Pentagon solutions aimed at combating the IED and sniper threat in Iraq. And it's already popular with the troops. "The primary purpose of the CROWS is to get the gunner out of the turret where he is exposed to enemy fire and fragmentation and get him down inside the vehicle for protection," Sergeant First Class Sam Cottrell said of the new weapon station, "The CROWS system is an excellent tool. The advantages are obviously its optics, zoom and thermal capabilities."On display at this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo, members of the Army Games Project boasted that CROWS will also be available in the newest version of America's Army, titled Overmatch. Players will be allowed to operate the system precisely how it was intended to be used in real-life, with a team of up to 4 soldiers using the weapon station to engaged the enemy while stationary or on the move, using daytime or thermal imaging, and employing the M-2 machine gun or MK-19 grenade launcher. True to life, gamers will even have to deploy a team member to reload the weapon ouside the vehicle.Bad puns aside, talk about getting more bang for your buck. Not only has America's Army become a hyper-effective recruiting device, the Army is now squeezing realistic training uses out of the game as well. I don't know if the Army is working on any more two-for-one specials, but somebody should send the Air Force the memo.-- John Noonan
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