FORT BLISS, Texas – In the realm where pixels meet precision, there’s a unique convergence of military discipline, dedication and digital prowess.
Pfc. Kevin Sanchez, 28, is a person who embodies this fascinating crossover as a professional Soldier and avid gamer.
While Sanchez loves to display his skills in the digital world amongst a gaming community, he is first and foremost a dedicated U.S. Army Soldier who excels as a network specialist. His passion for gaming has emerged him as a finalist in the Online Soldier Showdown V, an upcoming Army Esports tournament. This warrior’s skills extend beyond the physical domain and into the virtual battlegrounds of competitive gaming.
Sanchez, a native of Yabucoa, Puerto Rico, is assigned to the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division. Like many from his generation, Sanchez expressed his love of gaming came from an early age.
“I’ve loved video games and science since I was a kid,” Sanchez said while reminiscing about his childhood. “My mom always bought me Game Boys, Nintendo, PlayStations [systems] and electronics like that. So, I’ve always been working with computers.”
Sanchez received his associate degree in computer engineering from Turabo University, now known as Ana G. Méndez University, in Gurabo, Puerto Rico in 2015.
In January 2023, he decided to dedicate himself to service by enlisting in the U.S. Army. He started his Army career at Fort Jackson, South Carolina where he attended basic combat training (BCT). Although he went without video games for 10 weeks at BCT, Sanchez still maintained his love and passion for them.
Before enlisting in the Army, Sanchez’s favorite video game was the reboot of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. This is one of the most popular video game franchises amongst service members, and it is sponsored directly by both the U.S. Army and Air Force. Sanchez considered himself good at the game. However, after picking up a controller for the first time in more than six months, he found himself struggling to compete well online against his fellow gamers.
Sanchez went to Fort Eisenhower, Georgia to attend his advanced individual training. While there, he made several friends who encouraged him to further act on his passion for multiplayer gaming by competing in an Esports tournament hosted by the Army Morale Welfare and Recreation (MWR) and Better Opportunities for Single Soldier (BOSS) programs. He quickly decided to sign up for the Online Soldier Showdown V tournament.
“When I started playing Call of Duty I was like, I feel rusty right now,” he said. “And then I felt like I started getting better and better. I practiced. I practiced because it was a long, long time that I didn’t play.”
This tournament is set up where each competitor is tasked with playing three different games in a battle royale style. Each competitor had to play within public solo queue multiplayer lobbies for a 12-week period.
The competitors transitioned to the next game after four weeks of playing one game. Each competitor earned points per match on a global leaderboard. The three games are Apex Legends, Fortnite, and Call of Duty: Warzone. These games are currently the most popular multiplayer shooter games where tens of millions of people play online daily.
Players competed in Apex Legends during the first four weeks of the tournament. Sanchez spoke on the challenges of competing with hundreds of other soldiers for the spot at the top of the global leaderboard.
“On Apex, I kill it! I’m really good on Apex Legends.” Sanchez exclaimed. “For the first week I was excited, and I didn’t play well. I ended up in like third place. For the next week I needed to be better. Then the second week I won first place.”
After clinching the win for Apex Legends, Sanchez persevered through multiple rounds of Fortnite.
“On Fortnite, the first two weeks I was really good. But the third, that’s the one I did not participate in. And the fourth one, I was pretty good. I ended up in like third or fourth place.”
Call of Duty: Warzone was the third game in the tournament, and the most frustrating of them all.
“On Call of Duty, there’s a lot of competition in the Army,” Sanchez said. “They play a lot of Call of Duty, so it was really hard. It was really difficult because you’re fighting a lot of people. There are a lot of hackers too because it’s a public server. You’re trying to set yourself to be the best on the server at that moment. And sometimes a grenade just ended everything. That’s it for you. Go to the lobby!”
Throughout this competition, Sanchez overcame many challenges. Two of the most critical tools needed to compete in the tournament are high-speed internet and a reliable computer to play on. There were many weeks of the competition where Sanchez did not have access to either of these tools due to the training demands of his Army career, which also affected his overall ranking on the tournament leaderboard.
Even with these career commitments, Sanchez managed to rise above the competition and is now a finalist within the Online Soldier Showdown V. For achieving this feat Sanchez won more than $2,000 worth of gaming equipment.
He is bound to compete in the tournament grand finale at the Lenovo Legion Esports Center in Frisco, Texas on Dec. 1 and 2. He will compete against 11 other finalists across the Army to take home the grand prize and title of ‘Best Battle Royale Gamer’.
Sanchez credits his success to the support of his fellow Soldiers from the “Strike Brigade” and his family and friends.
“I want to thank everyone. I really appreciate it.” Sanchez said. “I am happy to represent the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team. I started everything at Fort Eisenhower, but I’m now here representing Fort Bliss. So, I’m really excited to represent my new brigade and unit. They’re supporting me as best as they can, so I really appreciate it.”
“My wife is really excited. All my friends are excited. They’re asking me, when you get the link, just send me the link. Because we want to watch you,” he added.
Fort Bliss Soldiers are encouraged to root Sanchez during the Soldier Showdown V Watch Party at the Monti Warrior Zone located at 21171 Medic Ave at 10 a.m., Dec 1 and 2. Free food and drinks will be provided while supplies last!
If Fort Bliss Soldiers are unable to make it to the Monti Warrior Zone, they can watch all the action and support Sanchez Esports journey and pursuit to win the tournament by tuning into the Army Entertainment’s channel on www.twitch.tv/armyentertainment from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. EDT on Dec. 1 and 2.