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NEWS | Aug. 14, 2019

Joining Army Esports Team a dream come true for JBSA-Fort Sam Houston Soldier

By David DeKunder 502d Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Gaming is a hobby Spc. Iosif Covalenco has embraced since he was a teenager.

Now Covalenco, an information technology specialist who was assigned to the 470th Military Intelligence Brigade at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston for a year, is on his way to his next duty station at Fort Knox, Kentucky, where he will join the U.S. Army Esports Team.

The team is part of the U.S. Army Recruiting Command headquartered at Fort Knox and will represent the Army at local, regional and national esports competitions.

“I’m just excited,” said the 20-year-old Covalenco. “The most I’ll be looking forward to is really getting to compete at the highest level. I’m a competitive person. I like to win.”

In December 2018, the Army Recruiting Command sent out a notice seeking Soldiers to become members of the newly formed esports team. While in technical school, one of Covalenco’s friends saw the notice in an email and encouraged him to try out for the team.

“He knew I was very good at games,” Covalenco said. “He said I should give it a shot.”

In January, Covalenco earned a spot on the esports team when he played a game with team managers online. By playing with Covalenco, the team managers determined he met the requirements to join the team before the official tryouts began online.

His first event as a member of the Army Esports Team was in March when he played at Pax South, a gaming festival held in San Antonio.

At that event, Covalenco and his esports teammates were spreading awareness about the Army and the esports team. They played against attendees, hoping to get them interested in joining the Army or if they were already Soldiers, to join the esports team if they showed they had the skills to do so.

Growing up, Covalenco said he was into sports and outdoor activities. He started to get into gaming during his high school years and became good at it.

“I saw that I was very good at just any game I ever played,” he said. “So I saw that as an opportunity that if I would put enough time into that, I could be better than a lot of people that were already playing.”

Covalenco plays Fortnite, an online video game, and has already won prizes by competing in several online tournaments. He said being selected as a member of the Army Esports Team will allow him access to the latest gaming equipment, esports coaches who can help him on the mental aspect of gaming and the resources to travel to tournaments and competitions around the country.

“I think the opportunity of me being able to do this more often would give me a high chance of being able to compete at a higher level because I get to practice more and train and become a better player,” Covalenco said.

He will be with the Army Esports Team for at least the next three years, the remainder of his Army contract. Covalenco said being a full-time gamer while serving his country feels so unrealistic to him, but fulfills a goal he’s been wanting to do for a while.

“It’s very unbelievable,” he said. “This is definitely a milestone that I didn’t think I would reach at least this early. It is a dream come true.

“As soon as I realized I was better than the average player at any game, it made me think I had the chance to play at the highest possible level and that’s what kind of pushed me towards becoming a professional player,” Covalenco added.

When it announced the formation of the Army Esports Team in December, the Army Recruiting Command said it was setting up the new team to allow team members to build awareness of the skills they utilize as professional Soldiers at gaming events and to use their gaming knowledge to reach out and relate to youth.

“If we are going to be successful in recruiting, then we need to be where young people are, and they are operating in the digital world,” said Maj. Frank Muth, U.S. Army Recruiting Command commanding general. “There are thousands of current Soldiers who are competitive online gamers. Now we are giving them a chance to use their talents to help us relate to and connect with other young gamers. They will have the ability to start a dialogue about what it is like to serve in our Army and see if they are interested in joining.”