As fewer and fewer young people sign up for military service, recruiters are turning to unconventional means to pique their interest. On Monday, recruiters at Clarksburg High School in Maryland sent hundreds of students on a virtual reality mission to extract Navy Seals on a dangerous river.
Students entered a trailer in the school’s parking lot, strapped on Oculus VR headsets, headphones and vibrating backpacks, simulating the roar of the boat’s engines as well as the thuds of machine-gun fire, and simulated driving Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewmember boats through heavy gunfire and around rocky terrain.
“It felt like you had a motor on your back. It was really realistic,” said sophomore Cole Eastley. “And then around you, four guys posted on cannons. Every time they fired, you would feel that — you feel like you were almost in a war zone.”
Eastley told WTOP he stopped by the experience because he was already interested in serving in the Navy.
“It really gives you that insight into what being in an active war zone is like, and certainly if you’re able to cope under that sort of pressure,” he said. “Because if you can’t, then you’re just putting yourself in harm’s way for no reason.”
Clarksburg High student Jacob Escobar also drove the SWCC boat.
“It was very interesting, because that’s how it probably is in the real Navy and I liked the experience,” said Escobar, though he still is not very interested in signing up for the real thing.
Navy Recruiter FC1 Warren Golston told WTOP the unconventional tool can help drive interest in the military.
“What we’d like to offer is sort of like a realistic type of experience,” said Golston. “So that will give them an idea to be able to put themselves in the shoes of someone who actually does serve in the Navy, performing this task on a day-to-day basis. This allows us to give them the opportunity to decide ‘OK — you know what? I can see myself doing this.'”