The Army Experience Center – Franklin Mills Mall Philadelphia
Army Experience Center Uses Combat Simulators to Educate and Inform Mall Shoppers.
In an effort to raise the profile of the US military, a mall in Philadelphia recently became home to the first Army Experience Center.
The Experience center has an array of hands on displays including a Black Hawk helicopter simulator video gaming stations and other interactive exhibits. The store is staffed by soldiers who are eager to share their experiences, giving the public a better understanding of military life.
For instance, the Army offers more than 175 careers — from water purification specialist to intelligence analyst — but not many people know it, said chief marketing officer Edward Walters.
“We didn’t think we were effectively telling that story,” Walters said.
To accommodate the many branches of the military, the high-tech glass-walled store covers 14,500 square feet, more than three times the size of a basketball court.
Upon entering the store, shoppers are met with a central seating area complete with armchairs and couches surrounded by video installations, nearly 80 military gaming stations, a replica command-and-control center, conference rooms and simulators for Black Hawk and Apache helicopters and a Humvee.
The highlight of the Experience Center is the Black Hawk Simulator in which participants experience flying through a mountain village whilst shooting at enemies to protect a U.S. convoy headed to a medical facility.
Situated next to Sam Ash Music store and across from a Dave & Buster’s restaurant, H&R Block outlet and skateboard park inside the Franklin Mills Mall, the $12 million Army Experience Center hopes to become a model for other such centers in the future.
“It’s not a recruiting center (although it will handle enlistments),” said Walters. “It’s really a place for the American public to get educated about the Army and for us to show that the Army is very high-tech and relevant.”
Maj. Larry Dillard said officials chose Franklin Mills in Northeast Philadelphia because its urban location and blend of retail and entertainment facilities make it “a destination mall.”
“There aren’t many Army bases in the area people don’t have a lot of exposure to the Army.” About 30 percent of Army recruits live within 50 miles of a base, Dillard said.
Walters described the Center as a “non-pushy environment” that tells the Army’s story in a variety of formats to anyone willing to listen. All ages are welcome, but visitors must be at least 13 to play video games.
Maj. Gen. Thomas Bostick called it “a learning laboratory” — but not just for those who are thinking of joining.
“It’s incumbent upon the American public to know about their Army,” Bostick said.
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