May 14, 2019 – The US Army attended the 2019 DECA Conference in Orlando, Florida at the end of April, where it asked students and educators to ‘Decide to Lead’ as part of an interactive virtual reality exhibit.
Packed into a shipping container, Decide to Lead unfolds into an interactive VR exhibit that provides attendees with a glimpse of life as an Army officer. Participants take charge in a virtual world, leading an Army convoy around obstacles. At the end of the 10-minute scenario, participants then walk away with a leadership trait – an attribute linked with the choices they made throughout the scenario.
Decide to Lead was developed by the Army Marketing and Research Group through the Army Game Studio at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama. However, ownership recently transferred to the US Army Mission Support Battalion (MSB), which continues to pioneer new ways to support Army accessions. The battalion operates static displays used at conventions, as well as a fleet of mobile assets and trailers that crisscross the lower 48 states of the US each year. Decide to Lead joins MSB’s National Conventions Division that stages keynote exhibits, including the Army’s footprint at the annual Association of the US Army convention.
Matching the right asset with the right venue is critically important to piquing the interest of prospects and influencers, according to Mission Support Battalion Commander Lt. Col. David Eckley. DECA, formerly Distributive Education Clubs of America, is a non-profit organization that prepares students to be college and career ready. The Army shares that mission as a DECA partner, according to Eckley.
“Events like DECA provide an excellent opportunity to reach the people the Army needs to put in boots,” Eckley said. “The Decide to Lead asset is focused on supporting accessions for the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC). Specific ROTC messaging and imagery focused on the challenges and rewards associated with becoming an Army officer are included.”
Nate Lewis, Outreach Specialist from US Army Cadet Command, who joined the team of exhibitors from MSB and USAREC said: “It’s a good icebreaker… It attracts students to our footprint where we can engage them about becoming a leader in the Army. It’s not a win or lose game. Scenarios are student driven. Mostly, it helps students understand what it takes to be a leader.”
“Most of the kids have not seen an exhibit like this before,” Lewis continued. “The scenario puts them in a battlefield situation and provides a sense of reality that’s new to them. They’re forced to make real-life decisions.”
Sharing space with the Decide to Lead exhibit were two additional virtual reality displays where participants jumped with the Army Parachute Team or raced alongside a former Army NHRA drag racing driver.
Image credit: US Army