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The Army Experience Center – Franklin Mills Mall Philadelphia

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.

Black Hawk Simulator at Army Experience Center

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.

Humvee Simulator at Army Experience Center

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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  1. I went to the Army Experience Center ,and I had an amazing time. I think even people who just want to experience pieces of what The Army is like will have fun going it’s for everyone,but don’t take it for a joke try to conduct yourself if you do you’ll have fun…..

  2. Chris, wish I could have gone. The Army Center has received a lot of flack for what some say is “encouraging violence in the youth.” Personally, I have played video games and watched movies more violent than the Army Center even come close to being – and I turned out normal … well somewhat.

  3. It would be one thing to have an army museum and resource center with science experiments you could perform that simulated what an “Army Water Purification Specialist” does.

    It’s quite another to put kids in a Black Hawk and simulate “shooting the enemy”…and call it fun.

    A video game doesn’t simulate war to the degree that this experience center does–and it certainly doesn’t have real soldiers on hand to tell you their stories and remind you that the Army is a real destination that you too can join.

    Unfortunately, it also doesn’t do anything to analyze the real cost of war–or show its many sides.

    Do they have, say, prosthetic arms and legs for people to “experience” being a wounded soldier?

    Or dosages of psychedelics to simulate PTSD?

    How about a tank not doing anything for 3 weeks except accumulating dirt–to simulate the extreme boredom many face while enlisted?

  4. I am a future soldier of the U.S.ARMY i have already started the trainig and the AEC has helped me alot! Anyone interested in joining the ARMY… you will find the best help & information here. Don’t forget, if anyone asks, tell them private williams sent you! ARMY STRONG!!!!!!!!!!

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