363 ISRW Airman qualifies for Air Force Gaming team

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. AJ Hyatt
  • 363d Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Wing
His gaming passion started when he was only five-years old and he was playing “Need for Speed Underground,” a fast-paced street racing game. Fifteen years later, this gamer is now in the Air Force and has earned a spot competing with Air Force Gaming playing another type of vehicular game.
U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Hayden Kelsey from the 17th Intelligence Squadron, also known as “Plum” in the gaming community, was one of the 13 Air Force members selected to compete in Rocket League. Plum and his team recently qualified and won the Air Force Gaming (AFG) Minor League Rocket League regionals.
With the regionals win, Kelsey and his team were invited to the Air Force Services Center’s (AFSVC) hosted AFG event at ForceCon 2022, which ran from May 24-29, 2022, at the Tech Port Center and Arena in San Antonio, Texas, with the Armed Forces Sports E-Sports Championships that took place May 28-29, 2022.
“The Air Force Gaming Rocket League team I currently play on consists of players I have met through the Air Force Gaming Discord over the course of the last couple years,” said Kelsey. “I found out about Air Force Gaming through a coworker. Since then I have competed in many Air Force sanctioned Rocket League tournaments and have played for the official Air Force Rocket League team.”
Kelsey, who has played Rocket Leagues since it was released in 2015, has competed in roughly 30 Rocket League tournaments and has won nearly one third of them, so Plum has not shied away from competition.
“The ForceCon tournament had around 40 Rocket League teams that competed for the chance to TDY to San Antonio prior to the LAN [local area network],” Kelsey said. “The two best AF Rocket League teams from the North American region were invited to the LAN as well as the best team from APAC [Asia-Pacific] and best team from EU [The European Union]. The tournament in San Antonio was single elimination and we won the tournament.”
Plum enjoyed meeting and playing against players from the other branches of the military in a professional setting.
“ForceCon 2022 was an overall great experience,” Kelsey said. “The event was very well organized and gave us the opportunity to interact with gamers from every branch. Competing in a live streamed LAN event is something that not many people get to experience and I'm grateful I was able to be a part of it.”
According to the Air Force Gaming website, more than 86 percent of Airmen between the ages of 18-34 identify as gamers. The founding members started Air Force Gaming as an initiative to help Airmen and Guardians of all ages, ranks, and backgrounds find common ground through video games, while also promoting mental acuity, fine motor coordination, and competitive excellence.
 The Dallas-native has used gaming as an opportunity to compete outside of sports, while also helping him remain resilient.
“Gaming after work is a great way for me to decompress and spend time with my friends,” said Kelsey.
While Kelsey is looking forward to representing the Air Force in future tournaments, he is just as excited in helping this community grow as a whole.
“I just want to thank Air Force Gaming for all the work they’re putting into community events and tournaments,” Kelsey said. “I’ve made many close friends and memories through AFG and I’m looking forward to watching the community grow.”