Though paintball won't replace bonuses or benefits as a top recruiting tool anytime soon, the fast-growing sport has emerged in recent months as a promising source of fresh fighters at a time when the armed forces are stretched thin. Keenly aware that paintball's 10.4 million participants make it more popular among Americans than baseball, surfing or snowboarding, [Amry recruiter Sgt. Cory] Elder, a player himself, began trolling Long Island events for prospects late last year. After five "low-key" trips, his unit has signed up two new troops and identified another 50 who "seem interested." Recruiters in Minnesota, Pennsylvania, California, Chicago and North Dakota have also scoped out paintball events. Encouraged by such progress, the Army last month inked a $100,000 ad deal with Paintball Sports magazine, offering up tanks, choppers and—naturally—a huge Army recruiting booth for the 2,000-player Long Island Big Game in May. "We're watching Long Island as a pilot program to see whether there's enough interest to take this across the country," says Col. Donald Bartholomew of U.S. Army Recruiting Command at Fort Knox, Ky.
Do they know that in Iraq, the bullets are real?