Were We Soldiers?

by Jason “foolybear” Lineberger

On Mothers’ Day weekend Paintball Central’s location in Greenville, South Carolina, opened their gates to welcome in a scenario crowd hungry for action on a brand new field. “Traditionally we’re known as a speedball/tournament facility,” said Ken Barrett, PBC’s regional manager. Ken went on to state that they’re pushing hard to expand to serve the scenario community. Just prior to “We Were Soldiers,” their inaugural two-day event, the staff at PBC constructed a bridge across their pond to open the back acreage, wooded hills bisected by a steep-banked creek. With the addition of some bunkers, a few trails cut through the brush, and a small village of buildings, Central’s already attractive set-up looked that much better to the scenario teams that made the trip.

The promise of paintball action drew home squad O.M.E.N., Blue and Deuce from Blue’s Crew, Billy Smith and his group of scenario shooters from Low Country Paintball, members of Wulfenkow, and the founders of the Slingpaint.com online community among others. The chance to mix it up in the woods and through some of the best dirt-mound fields anywhere also attracted a fair share of current and former tournament players, including several from the rosters of Trauma and Gridlock.

They attack us; no casualties. They retreat into the mountains and, naturally, we follow them. Smell like an ambush to you? – Lt. Colonel Hal Moore, We Were Soldiers

The scenario drew inspiration from Mel Gibson’s 2002 Vietnam war movie, We were Soldiers, to establish the scene. Like the Battle of Ia Drang depicted in the movie, the American team started the event by landing choppers full of soldiers inside enemy territory. Four scenario helicopters left the American base in the opening minutes, followed by a push of foot soldiers to take and hold the mounds and bunkers between the two bases. Red team ambushes quickly cut down the helicopter strikes, and within 20 minutes Red had flanked, creating a crossfire that chipped away at the Blue defense. The action may have been intense at first, but the paint-burning initial skirmishes soon settled down to smaller gunfights as the teams paced themselves for what promised to be a full day of paintball. The game kicked off before noon and was scheduled to run continuously until 8 PM – a ten-hour paintball slugfest!

At only two hours into the game, Red hemmed in the remaining Blue players in a kill zone around Blue base only to learn that while their force had crept through the low areas of the field, Blue had done the same on the high side, and they were simultaneously putting paint on Red’s base. Neither team had an objective that required capturing the enemy base. The producers sent out missions every half hour, but many of the players simply wanted to go head-up with the opposition, whether that happened from bunker to bunker, through the woods, or in the maze of dirt mounds.

Pass this along; tell your men to fire three shots at anything that looks suspicious, on my order. – Lt. Colonel Hal Moore, We Were Soldiers

So, what makes a game memorable? It could be the field itself, the teams, customer service, those touches like props and role-players that lend realism to the experience, parties on Friday or Saturday night, or amazing, cathartic final battles. What made this game memorable for me was a single mission, a strike deep into enemy territory.

After spending several hours hustling fending off Blue players from all sides, I was ready to put some pressure on the other team for a change, so I hooked up with a group that planned to take the newly-cut trails across the pond to make a wide flanking move to the buildings safely tucked away behind the Red base. I joined with longtime paintball veterans Billy Smith, Ken Barrett, and Brian Radford along with a handful of the DXS Factory Team to round out the group. Unfortunately the first shot fired in the first confrontation was enough to send me on the long walk to reinsert. (Note to self – carry gun on the side that’s away from possible threats to prevent lucky longball shots to the loader.) By the time I returned, we had circled around to a spot on the edge of the village of buildings Red had easily held since game-on. Several of these buildings contained PVC sticks taped with team colors that the ref checked every half hour for points. All we needed to do was clear the village, flip the sticks to blue, then hold it against reinserting Red players. A few good players holding out against incredible odds in the middle of hostile turf? Perfect for this spirit of this scenario.

An hour later I left the field with a game’s worth of memories. Not one but TWO ambushes by players on our own team who weren’t expecting a friendly squad so deep on the Red side. A dozen hard fought skirmishes to clear buildings held by stubborn (and skilled) opponents. We clicked as a team, the sort of synchronicity that usually only happens after long hours of practice.

How it all plays out is unimportant. Whether we were whittled down to a last man standing or if we pulled all the flags and took off for friendly territory, it doesn’t matter. It’s the moment when everything comes together that counts. Maybe we weren’t soldiers, but we played the hell out of some paintball.

Fresh Intel: . . . . . . .Catch up with Jason ' Foolybear' Lineberger at the Vietnam Patrol at Command Decisions Wargames Center (home of the Fulda Gap Mega Game). Foolybear will be playing with Eclipse team, Capital Offense this weekend (21st - 22nd May 2011 CLICK HERE for more info !