By Maj. Mike Meyers | 4th Security Force Assistance Brigade Public Affairs Office
FORT CARSON, Colo. — It is no secret that 2020 has dealt so many Soldiers and their Families tremendous adversity. Some COVID-19 restrictions have made resiliency efforts hard to manage across the Army, and some people are hard pressed to stay mentally engaged with limits placed on the social activities. The reality of this new normal hits especially hard as Soldiers in the barracks look for ways to stay motivated and engaged.
However, Sgt. 1st Class Tyler Smith, master resilience training (MRT) NCO, Antero Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Security Force Assistance Brigade, accepted the reality and has been able to provide a new and innovative opportunity to stay resilient during the pandemic.
In a COVID-19 mitigation world, Smith found a way to thrive in his off-duty time with online gaming, which has become a preference for many people as a means of entertainment and mental stimulation — especially as it gets colder and outdoor activities are limited even more.
As gatherings continue to decrease, Smith’s wheels began turning, as some online games can connect many people through phone calls. Smith was able to turn “Call of Duty: War Zone” into a weekend event that attracted over 70 online gamers who competed in teams across the Security Forces Assistance Command (SFAC).
“Many of us enjoy playing (online games) as a team in Antero Company,” Smith added. “A few weeks ago, the game released a custom match that allowed us to play as a team. You need 24 players to start the game. It started out as a game internally within the company. Then I put a few flyers out, and we had just enough to play.”
After a few hours, however, some players dropped out and the game came to a halt, but that did not deter Smith. He took to social media to promote his platform, and he was determined to get people together to socialize and decompress.
“With so many people stuck inside on the weekends, this was a way to keep our Soldiers engaged with each other while we all deal with some of the COVID mitigations,” Smith said.
With the state at high risk for substantial COVID-19 spread, many local businesses that would normally be open to military families are closed or severely impacted with restrictions.
Capt. Gus Kihn, operations officer, Antero Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th SFAB, is optimistic and said he doesn’t mind if this becomes the new normal long-term.
“Historically speaking, 4th SFAB has the most wins followed distantly by 3rd SFAB,” Kihn said. “I think this is a great way to take our minds off of work while still interacting with our peers at work.”
Other gaming apps provide a medium for players to interact and talk to fellow gamers on their wins or losses, he added.
“With everyone staying at home for the most part, it has been very beneficial,” Kihn added.
As the 4th SFABs MRT NCO, Smith is certified and trained to help other Soldiers become more resilient on and off the battlefield.
In breaking down the weekend activities, Smith said every SFAB had representation across the Security Forces Assistance Command, including participation from National Guard units. The ultimate overall winner of the event Dec. 5, 4th SFAB battalions, followed by 5th SFAB.
“One of the nice things about this game is that it is multi-console,” Smith said. “It does not matter (which gaming system people have), everyone can participate. The end intent is to fill the lobby and max out with 150 Soldiers. That’s 150 Soldiers having safe fun on a Saturday night.”
“With COVID-19 going on, this is the perfect environment to build resiliency,” Smith said.
Smith took care in planning events for maximum participation, which landed on a weekend. He forecasted and promoted the event days in advance, and he encouraged other Soldiers to participate across the SFAC and other organizations in the Army.