Leeroy Jenkins in the Army: Military bases Iraq strategy on World of Warcraft misfit

In the pantheon of video games, Leeroy Jenkins is a legend. Leeroy, the World of Warcraft character of mild-mannered Lafayette native Ben Schulz, shot to stardom thanks to a 2006 YouTube clip (seen below).

His gaming fame earned Leeroy a Howard Stern reference, a mention on Jeopardy and a spot on schoolgirls' T-shirts in Asia -- and now the Army thinks it can use Leeroy to inform its multi-billion-dollar operations.

That's at least the perspective of Captain Robert M. Chamberlain, who authored a curious article published last year in the prestigious Armed Forces Journal titled, "Let's Do This! Leeroy Jenkins and the American Way of Advising."

What's the connection? In the clip, Leeroy is seen screwing his WOW teammates by charging blindly into a dragon's den hollering "All right chums, let's do this! LEEROOOY JEEENKINS!" -- and then, when everybody follows him in and dies, mumbling incoherently, "At least I have chicken."

According to Chamberlain, this maladroit and disastrous battle charge, which completely disregarded his teammates' planned course of action, is analogous to the gung-ho way the Army used to run missions in Iraq. The Armed Forces adopted a more successful battlefield strategy when it embraced more culturally sensitive counterinsurgency tactics, says Chamberlain -- but now he believes the Army is once again "pulling a Leeroy" in the blunt and awkward way it's approaching the task of advising Iraqi forces that are in the process of taking over security operations around the country.

The problem, writes Chamberlain, is that typical military approaches to advising Iraqis fail spectacularly because "like Leeroy Jenkins, these solutions substitute individual initiative and ability for meaningful planning."

The solemnly worded article evokes a fantastical image of Iraq, where U.S. soldiers arm themselves with broadswords, call each other "chum" and chase madly after imaginary dragons. No wonder our overseas wars are going to Hell in a hand basket.

In conclusion, Chamberlain proclaims it's time "to put a stop to the ad hoc, idiosyncratic, Leeroy Jenkins philosophy of advising and replace it with a coherent institutional approach that acknowledges Iraqi politics and is driven by Iraqi concerns."

And if that doesn't work, at least they have chicken.

Here's the famous Jenkins video:

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Joel Warner is a former staff writer for Westword and International Business Times. He's also written for WIRED, Men's Journal, Men's Health, Bloomberg Businessweek, Popular Science, Slate, Grantland and many other publications. He's co-author of the 2014 book The Humor Code: A Global Search for What Makes Things Funny, published by Simon & Schuster.
Contact: Joel Warner