Troops, athletes hook up over video games
KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — The clatter of gunfire and bursts of laughter rang through the Kadena United Service Organizations building here Saturday morning.
They were the sounds of two Kadena airmen playing the video game "Call of Duty: World at War" — with a twist.
The airmen were online and playing by way of webcast with a group of soldiers at Camp Virginia, Kuwait, against the football players of Wake Forest University, who were in Washington, D.C., to play the Inaugural EagleBank Bowl against the U.S. Naval Academy on Saturday.
The video-game event — with no winners, no losers — was set up by Pro Vs. GI Joe. The organization’s mission is to boost the morale of deployed servicemembers by coordinating the online games between troops and athletes — normally professional athletes — Greg Zinone, one of the founders, said in a phone interview from the States.
"We just want to give them a break; this gives them a little bit of fun, a little something different," Zinone said.
But Pro Vs. GI Joe doesn’t stop at connecting the troops with athletes, said Patrick Fleming, the Kadena USO manager. The organization invited military families to the last war game to talk with their servicemembers overseas.
One airman was surprised when about 20 family members were waiting to talk with him via webcam, Fleming said.
No family members were present for Saturday’s free-for-all war game, but it was still "great … a lot of fun," 18th Comptroller Squadron’s Airman 1st Class Jeffrey Russell said as he played at the Kadena USO.
"It’s amazing for them to be over there doing what they’re doing. … It’s a sense of camaraderie that we can keep in touch with these guys," Russell said of his fellow servicemembers on the other side of the world.
And Airman 1st Class Michael Parker said it’s comforting to know "people deployed right now have something entertaining to do."
The only downer was "the Wake Forest guys are pretty good" at the game, Parker said, as he tried to take out an enemy tank.
The Kadena USO plans to host more Pro Vs. GI Joe games in the new year.