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Communication skills level up through gaming

Submitted Art This graphic congratulates Minot Air Force Base’s Esports team’s accomplishments at the 2024 Eastern Regional Esports Invitational, hosted at Keesler AFB, Mississippi May 4. U.S. Air Force graphic by Senior Airman Alexander Nottingham.

MINOT AIR FORCE BASE — You’ve entered a lobby full of diverse characters, and everyone is eager for the match to start. You start to feel at ease as the announcer counts down. That day’s stressors wash away with each victorious scream and every defeated wail. Here in the arena, everyone can be a competitor regardless of background.

More than 86% of airmen between the ages of 18-34 identify as gamers. Air Force Gaming was started as an initiative to help airmen and guardians of all ages, ranks and backgrounds find common ground through video games, promoting mental acuity, fine motor coordination and competitive excellence.

For some, video games have become a way not only to destress but also to increase their communication skills. At Minot Air Force Base, a team of four airmen, U.S. Air Force Capt. Nicholas Gutierrez, Senior Airman Jacob Bass, Senior Airman Angel Garcia and Airman 1st Class Luke Townsend, are using learned and refined communication skills to create an Esports team, which has been competing nationally against teams from other Air Force bases.

Their first tournament together as a team was a very surreal but awesome experience, explained Bass. It was his first time meeting his teammates, Townsend and Garcia, in person but the gaming setup made connecting as a team much easier. They did not lose a single match in that entire tournament. Win after win, it seemed like Team Minot would be an unstoppable force.

The Minot AFB Esports team’s achievements are a testament to their hard work and skill, demonstrated well at the 2024 Eastern Regional Esports Invitational, hosted at Keesler AFB, Mississippi, where they qualified for the Continental United States Championship.

The 2024 EREI attracted more than 1,200 attendees, who witnessed eight Air Force Gaming teams compete. Each team was made up of airmen from different bases who had proven their skills in communication and teamwork. The west qualifiers will be held on July 12-13 at Hill AFB, Utah, and the finals are in August.

According to the Air Force’s core value of “Excellence In All We Do,” teamwork is essential to triumph at every level. Airmen amid an intense battle against a competing team must be able to maintain good communication. Some might say that the winner of a competitive Esports match is the team that communicates the best.

Communication skills can be developed in many ways. Some gamers have found that video games can be the catalyst to honing those skills and becoming more effective communicators in their careers and everyday lives.

“Every day I have the opportunity to work with people from all over the world, and through gaming I’ve had previous experience with all sorts of backgrounds,” said Gutierrez. “So, I’ve leveraged these experiences to work well with individuals from all walks of life successfully.”

Each member of Team Minot’s Esports plays a major role in the global deterrence mission. From a defender securing one of the nation’s most important assets, a B-52H weapons system operator who, if called upon, is prepared to utilize said asset, to the maintainer who ensures the tools needed for the mission are ready at a moment’s notice. All these jobs require precise communication in a very high-stress environment with many different members from different organizations and backgrounds.

“The communication skills I have improved through gaming on such a lethal team is always telling your team what you see, what your current actions are, and what you are going to do,” said Bass. “Being Security Forces, if I don’t communicate my actions well to my team the consequences could be deadly. Recapture exercises can be very chaotic but gaming with my team in a similar but different environment has helped prepare me to use the smooth and decisive communication needed for a successful mission.”

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