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Playing Soldier Can Bring People Together

Posted 7 August, 2007 at 1:28am by Michael Chu
(Filed under: Airsoft)

I spent the weekend at CQB Challenge, a training event and competition focused on military and law enforcement simulation (with special emphasis on close quarters battle). There were twelve registered teams at the event and six people who did not have a team (including myself) who were assigned together to form a team. The other twelve teams had been practicing together for at least a month and our team had one main goal: to hold our own against them even though we would only have one day to train together. Using airsoft (air propelled weapons that shoot 6mm plastic BB's) rifles and pistols, the 80 or so participants would be trained by a large staff of former and current military and law enforcement in working together as a military team. There is no camaraderie like the that of a team who has trained together as a single unit, each relying on each other wholly.

Moving as a team is mostly about trust. When you enter a room, you trust that the man behind you is right behind you when you go in. In fact, he is so close behind that his weapon enters the room almost before your body does. Without that man, you could be shot from a direction that you are unable to cover, but with that man entering right behind you, you know you are covered and you can do your job of clearing your side of the room. Working together effectively as a team in military simulation (and airsoft in general) really is greater than the sum of the individuals (playing the Lone Ranger or Rambo).

It's not just the trust… you're actually physically close to the other guys. "Stacking up" is not for the homophobic. When stacked up, you're moving or positioning in preparation for room entry or movement throw a hallway or doorway. Every man is right up against the man before him. And I mean, right up against him. Hips and butts touching, left arm grabbing either the top of the vest near the neck or the shoulder of the man in front for both balance and non-verbal communication. Rifles laid across the forearm of the man ahead as firing support (and to provide as much firepower to bear in as small of an area as possible). Signals are sent up and down the line by squeezing whatever is under the left hand (or which ever hand is not the gun hand) or pounding with the fist. (I think one of the other team members has a picture of us practicing a stack - I'll post it when I get a copy.) After training for a couple hours moving into and out of buildings, down the hall, peeling off however many are necessary to safely clear a room, rapidly moving in the stack formation through an entry and peeling off in opposing directions using the momentum of the group to propel you into a firing position, and being able to tell exactly when to start moving to synchronize with the point man is really a bonding experience.

After the day of training (an exhausting day that began for me at 5am) and a day of competition, we also found that we shared a some common interests and shared memories of childhood movies and TV shows. What began only the day before as a quiet group of strangers thrust together by chance, turned out to be a group of comrades that couldn't shut up about not just airsoft stories, but also Star Wars, Robot Chicken, video games, and the latest theories about hidden messages in Blade Runner. Who knew that a school teacher, SWAT officer, electrician, psychologist, and computer engineer (I forgot what Steve's occupation is) would have so much in common and be able to work together as a team in such a short period of time. Amazing.

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