Pro vs. GI Joe Brings Giants and Redskins to Troops in Iraq!

Soldiers play “Guitar Hero” against players at the ESPN Zone in Washington D.C., as part of the “Pro vs. GI Joe” video game competition, June 8, 2010, which pitted troops against Washington Redskins football players. (DoD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class William Selby)

The ESPN Zone locations in New York City’s Times Square and downtown Washington, DC, were packed with wounded warriors, NFL players, USO staff and volunteers, and gaming enthusiasts of all stripes when Pro vs. GI Joe took the stage for heated competition – all in the name of supporting the Troops.

“Troops spend a lot of their downtime playing video games overseas,” co-founder Addie Zinone told AFPS. “When I told Greg about that, he thought of a way we could kind of give back to the troops [through] playing video games.”

This week’s activities kicked off on Monday, when soldiers from the 3rd Battalion, 85th Infantry, Warrior in Transition Unit at Fort Drum met New York Giants players for a matchup on XBox 360.  Adding to the excitement was the opportunity to play Guitar Hero against Troops stationed in Basra, Iraq.  Miss USA 2010 Rima Fakih stopped by and Tuesday morning the group appeared on CBS’s “The Early Show” to meet Dave Price, the show’s weatherman.

Troops stationed at Basra came to the USO Center there to play wounded warriors and Redskins players halfway around the world. (USO Photo by Richard McCarty)

Later that day, Pro vs. GI Joe packed up and headed to DC, where a group of wounded warriors was set to match up against local USO teams and players from the Washington Redskins, with the winners taking on USO Baghdad.  Jeremy Jarmon – a second-year defensive end for the Washington Redskins – “grew up in a military household where his mother, father, and stepfather had all served in the Army. Jarmon said he loves giving back to servicemembers any way he can.  ‘It means a lot to me to be able to come out here and be able to interact with some of our troops,’ Jarmon told AFPS. ‘Coming from a military family, I know it takes a special type of person to be able to serve over there.'”

In the end, it didn’t really matter who won the matchup, because all those involved had such a great time participating.  We’d like to thank USO Fort Drum, USO of Metropolitan Washington (who’ve posted video on their YouTube Channel), USO Basra, USO Baghdad, the Wounded Warrior Project, Pro vs. GI Joe and all of the active-duty and retired military who took part in these two amazing events.  Way to go – you’re all rockstars in our book!

Miss USA Rima Fakih takes on the drums as soldiers from the Fort Drum Warriors in Transition Unit tackle guitar and vocals at the Pro vs. GI Joe event with the Giants in New York City, June 7, 2010.

Pro vs. GI Joe – Doin’ a Little for Those Who Do a Lot

by Addie Zinone, Co-Founder of Pro vs. GI Joe

I have a love-love relationship with the USO. I love the organization as a soldier who benefits greatly from their programs and services, but I also love the USO because, through a unique and mutually beneficial partnership, my husband and I have seen our vision for connecting troops serving around the world through video games become a reality.

I’ve been in the Army Reserve since 2002. I am a Staff Sergeant assigned to the 222d Broadcast Operations Detachment in Los Angeles and I’ve served two tours of duty in Iraq. It is because of my service that my husband (who doesn’t serve) wanted to give back to those of us in uniform. One day in 2007, just a few months before my second tour began, Greg came up with the idea for Pro vs. GI Joe.

Addie Zinone - Co-founder of Pro vs. GI Joe - set up a web cam to help the troops in Baghdad prepare for the next round. (Photo courtesy of Temple University)

Pro vs. GI Joe is a non-profit organization that sets up real-time video game competitions between professional athletes and celebrities and troops serving all over the world via online gaming. In addition to playing games online, we also invite local troops to attend in-person and when possible, we get the friends and families of the troops participating overseas in on the action. Not only do the troops get to compete against their favorite celebrities and athletes but they also get to chat and talk trash via live webcam feed with them and their family members in attendance. It’s a simple idea that produces amazing results.

The reaction to Pro vs. GI Joe events has been nothing short of amazing. From the troops who participate both overseas and stateside, their family and friends, the athletes and celebrities and the USO Centers around the world, everyone seems to have a great experience. We are connecting troops to their heroes on the gridiron and hardwood – despite the thousands of miles that separate them – and we’re doing it through an activity they love – video games.

We are also making history.

Members of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers play Guitar Hero 5 against troops at the USO Center in Qatar, Nov 09. Family members of the troops participating from Qatar are also on hand for the event at Bucs stadium.

Together, Pro vs. GI Joe and the USO brought online gaming to troops serving in the Middle East for the very first time. Prior to this partnership, online gaming wasn’t available in combat zones. And there has never been anything like Pro vs. GI Joe, a concept that connects soldiers to their communities, in real-time through video games and webcams, from wherever they are stationed in the world. None of this would be possible without the USO and their hardworking and dedicated staff and volunteers who dedicate hours to making these events great for the troops all over the world. To date, we’ve held Pro vs. GI Joe events at USO centers in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait, Dubai, Japan, Korea, Qatar, Germany and of course in various centers here in the states. We’ve connected troops with athletes from the NBA, NFL, MLB, NASCAR, UFC and IRL while also attending the biggest sporting events in the world. What these events do is allow troops to relax and enjoy a few hours of fun while connecting with their family members and talking trash to their athletic heroes. They walk away with an experience only they get because they choose to wear the uniform and serve our country.

While the experience is great for the troops and their families, it’s usually greater for the athletes because they’re truly humbled by the experience. They are amazed that something so little can do so much. Seeing the smiles on the faces of the troops via webcam while they’re playing Reggie Bush and Shaquille O’Neal is pretty gratifying but seeing the tears and laughter when the game-play is over and the family reunions begin is priceless. It’s truly the reason we do what we do and it’s a privilege to work alongside the USO, an organization whose work inspires us, to continue creating life-long experiences for our military men and women serving around the world.

Click here to see the latest installment of Pro vs. GI Joe on G4’s “Attack of the Show.”  The opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of Addie Zinone and do not necessarily reflect those of the USO.