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  • Airsoft vs. MILSIM

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Airsoft vs. MILSIM

Airsoft versus MILSIM 

By John Bucciarelli, Blacksheep6 

Major, Infantry, US Army Retired 

 

Many players use the terms interchangeably, but there is a significant difference. 

 

I have been involved in this sport for 10 years and producing national level events for 6 years.  My first experience in this sport was back in 2004.  It was a 300 person game in Massachusetts.  I was impressed as I stepped out of my car with the guns and gear.  Things were going well UNTIL we got in the woods and the battle commenced.  They didn’t understand what I was talking about when it came to tactics.  There was no illusion of fire and maneuver.  The rules completely decimated any semblance of unit cohesion.  On first contact the team dissolved as players headed back to someplace called a “respawn” and whether they ever came back was questionable.  I sat down with the event organizers after the game and bluntly said, “If you want guys like me to come back and play this game, then there had to be significant changes made.”   I started teaching squad tactics to players in the New England community.  In 2006 I published the MILSIM Tactics Manual and the MILSIM MOUT Manual.  It took me that long to adapt the real world tactics I had learned in the Army to the game environment.  The most significant difference was the range of the guns – an M16 has an effective range of over 500 meters and an Airsoft M4 has an effective range of just about 150 feet.  Once you learn this, everything else tactically applies. In November 2008 I ran my first national level event – Operation Pine Plains at Fort Drum, New York. 

 

 I believe Airsoft had its origins in the video game and Hollywood interpretations of the military - or worse yet, as an evolutionary step away from paintball.  Let’s look at this a little closer.  Where did the term respawn come from?  Most Airsoft games involve referees.  Full auto and high cap magazines are the fantasy of teenage wet dreams.  The uniforms and gear are modeled after some mythological soldier rather than the practicality and effectiveness in the terrain fought on.  Players show up at games as if they were modeling for a spread in Gentleman’s Quarterly rather than a battle.  The term “Gucci” is thrown around as if it represented the soldiers they were emulating.  The paintball mentality pervades this group with an emphasis of how many magazines were used during the battle – the more BBs used equals badassedness or dare I say proficiency.  The “Lone Wolf” is admired for achievements that no soldier would dare claim.  

 

Many people judge our sport by the backyard skirmish with Walmart gun activities – or worse yet by the anomaly of some kid doing the wrong thing.  This sport is based on honor.  Most think that the honor is judged by calling your hits, which is an important part of the game.  The honor runs deeper than that.  The honor in this sport is about the military that you are emulating – the men and women who do these activities for real.  The military is an honor based profession.  In the military there is no doubt in your mind that your buddies have your back and that they will do what is required – lives depend on it.  It’s a brotherhood beyond your imagination.  Which is a nice segue into MILSIM. 

 

MILSIM is about simulating the military.  Some MILSIM events are scenario driven or reenactments and this provides a variety of events and experiences.  I can only speak on what I do and share the intent, philosophy and experience at Blacksheep MILSIM.  You can use this to judge your own experiences. 

 

When I was thinking of a name for my company, all kinds of silly acronyms were considered.  Then it dawned on me to go back to my roots in the Infantry.  I was the commander of B Company, 6th Battalion, 6th Infantry, 3rd Brigade, 1st Armored Division in Bamberg, Germany – we were the Bravo Blacksheep and I was Blacksheep6.  That was it – Blacksheep MILSIM.  My goal from the very beginning was to give players a taste of combat in as real an environment as could be produced safely.  Everything done at a Blacksheep event is based on military doctrine, training and operations.  I never ask players to do anything I haven’t done myself or soldiers aren’t doing everyday on deployment.  I create a battlefield environment and you create your own experience within it – it’s completely free-play within the rules and safety guidelines. 

 

Operation Blacksheep is a squad based, 24 hour, 18+, force on force, objective oriented, continuous tactical simulation.  It is designed to challenge you mentally, physically, tactically and spiritually.  There is a Wall at Operation Blacksheep – it’s the point where your mind or body says you can’t go any further.  This challenge presents itself individually and as a team.  Each event presents different challenges.  So let’s look at what makes this MILSIM event different from an Airsoft event.  MILSIM is a thinking person’s game.  It’s all about tactics, logistics, administration and keeping your team in the fight for 24 hours. 

 

Squad Based – the squad is the most effective fighting force on the battlefield.  It is a team composed of 11 members – it is the tip of the spear in any military operation.  Like a football team which practices plays to split second proficiency.  Higher level operations – platoon, company and battalion – are just many squads working together synchronized by the chain of command.  In my opinion, squad leader is the most difficult job in the military.  Squad tactics are the foundation of this sport – basic fire and maneuver.  The squad stays together throughout the entire event – think about that for a minute.  You came to play with your buddies and the bond of brotherhood is formed by working through challenges together. 

 

Readiness Condition (REDCON) Levels – dictate the actions of squads on the battlefield.  This system is based on real reporting requirements in the military and has been modified for game purposes.  The LACE (liquids, ammunition, casualties and equipment) report is the foundation of this reporting system.  Squad leaders must report Readiness Condition (REDCON) to their Command Post at required intervals as determined by the Commander, upon request from the Commander or when the squad reaches the following thresholds. This is important information for your Commander and replicates actual military reporting requirements, although the thresholds have been modified for game purposes. When reporting, Squad Leaders must identify the reason their squad is at a certain REDCON level – LACE: liquids, ammunition, casualties and equipment – and your ability to fix the problem. This allows the Commander to determine the correct course of action for that squad – resupply, reinforce, relief in place or withdrawal. In some cases it may be advantageous to withdraw a unit to the CP for 5 minutes and send a REDCON 1 squad back into the fight. 

  • REDCON 1: Squad is 100% mission capable on water, BBs, personnel or guns. (11 squad members are ready) 

  • REDCON 2: Squad is 75% mission capable on water, BBs, personnel or guns. (10-8 squad members are ready) 

  • REDCON 3: Squad is 50% mission capable on water, BBs, personnel or guns. (7-5 squad members are ready) REPORT THIS LEVEL TO COMMAND 

  • REDCON 4: Squad is 25% mission capable on water, BBs, personnel or guns. (4-1 squad members are ready) REPORT THIS LEVEL TO COMMAND 

  • REDCON 5: Squad is 0% mission capable on water, BBs, personnel or guns. (0 squad members are ready) If a squad suffers 100% casualties they must disengage from the area they were defending or attacking with red flags on their heads and move to their respective Command Posts for regeneration and remission. THIS IS A MANDATORY WITHDRAWAL for water, BBs, personnel or guns. 

 

MEDIC RULE is the foundation for Operation Blacksheep.  It is used to maintain unit integrity, provide a fluid tactical scenario and reinforce squad tactics based on fire and maneuver. Squads will remain together throughout Operation Blacksheep. There is never a reason for a player to leave his/her squad. Squads will ALWAYS move as a unit.  

 

 

  • Each squad will have two medics designated, one per fire team. Medic role may be transferred from one “LIVE” player to another “LIVE” player ONLY at the faction’s CP at the discretion of the Squad Leader. 

  • When a player is “hit”, a medic can regenerate the “wounded” player once a bandage is tied on the left arm of the wounded player. If a medic is “hit”, another medic can regenerate the “wounded” medic once a bandage is tied on the left arm of the wounded medic. A player may NOT regenerate another player. If both medics in a squad are hit, then the squad must withdraw to the command post or get a medic from another squad to regenerate the wounded medic. A medic from another squad may use the bandages from the wounded medic to regenerate the wounded medic. 

  • There is no time requirement for a medic to regenerate a “wounded” player. The medic must get to the wounded player and as soon as the bandage is tied the wounded player is back in the fight. 

  • Each medic will be issued eight (8) bandages for use within the squad – total bandages per squad is sixteen (16). Bandages must be tied to the wounded player’s left arm. When all bandages have been used the squad must move to the Command Post for resupply. There is no limit on the number of times a squad may be resupplied with bandages. This is a MANDATORY WITHDRAWAL. 

  • If an entire squad is “wounded” or a squad has used all of its bandages, they must move as a squad to their respective Command Post to be regenerated after 10 minutes and then remissioned. This is a MANDATORY WITHDRAWAL. 

  • Wounded player(s) must remain in place when hit. Another player(s) must simulate dragging the wounded player(s) out of the kill zone to a medic.  

  • BLEED OUT - If the tactical situation prevents retrieving the wounded player(s) from the kill zone – too many additional casualties would be caused – then the wounded player bleeds out after 3 minutes. After the 3 minute bleed out period, the wounded player(s) may move on their own back to their squad. Once rejoining the squad a medic can regenerate the player by placing a bandage on the wounded player(s) left arm. 

  • Medics are a force multiplier if used correctly.  These rules allow you to push the fight on the offense and hold the ground on the defense.   

 

SEMI ONLY reinforces the role of the SAW/AR in the squad – you have to think about where you want to position the gun.  If everyone is firing automatic, then what is the incentive to carry a support gun.  Your gun must be capable of firing semi and it will be checked at CHRONO.  Trigger modifications are discouraged and may prevent you from using that gun in the game – this isn’t paintball. 

 

MID CAP ONLY makes you think about ammunition management – rates of fire and resupply. 

 

OBSERVER/CONTROLLERS (OC) not referees.  OC is the term used in the military for those who adjudicate training operations. 

 

CALL YOUR HITS is every player’s individual responsibility.  Most arguments on the field start with the perception that someone is not calling their hits.  There are two ways to look at this situation – in the heat of battle and all geared up the player did not notice the hit or you are not as good a shot as you think you are.  The official rule at Oper5ation Blacksheep is shoot them until they call their hits.  Don’t argue about it; call an OC for blatant hit calling problems. 

 

RED RAGS are the universal signal that you’ve been hit.  This is another area that causes consistent problems on the field – player’s get pissed when they continue to be shot at.  Operation Blacksheep is an immersion event and the fog of war is ever present.  Assume your opponent will not hear your verbal signal when you yell “HIT”.  Wave your red rag to visually signal you’ve been hit – wave it out the window, over the wall or from behind the tree and wave it where you got hit – that’s the part of your body your opponent can see.  If you continue to get hit, it means your opponent can’t see your RED RAG!  The RED RAG also has deeper meaning.  When you pull out your RED dead rag - reflect for a moment on what you are doing and why. The military folks you are emulating - with the gear, Airsoft replicas, tactics and attitude - don't get a second chance. Remember Everyone Deployed. 

 

SAFETY is the highest priority at Operation Blacksheep.  A formal risk assessment is done for every event and risk mitigation measures are implemented to reduce or eliminate hazards.  Safety considerations are briefed to the chain of command – squad leaders and above – at the Mission/Safety Briefing and reinforced at the pre-game formation.  Everyone is responsible for safety and you are responsible for the player’s safety in your sight.  There is a fine line between HOOAAH and stupid! 

 

I hope this helps define the line between Airsoft and MILSIM. 

 

Many events, fields and teams are using the Blacksheep rule set.  I don’t mind.  If you start thinking of yourself as an athlete in this sport, then the rules should be consistent from local, to regional, to national level.  Just like any other sport. 

 

I hear it all the time that many think they are not ready for Blacksheep.  You never know until you try.  Operation Blacksheep is based on measurable military standards.  Your experience at this event will set a mark on the wall for your current level of proficiency and outline what you have to improve on.  It gives you a goal to achieve for the next event and what you should practice.  No one leaves a Blacksheep event a loser – although the Company score does count.  It’s the individual and team achievements that are the most noteworthy.  I have also heard many say they would like to attend a Blacksheep event but it’s too far away.  I have decided to “bring the mountain to Mohammed” so look for a Blacksheep event near you. 

 

Please support the PTSD-MILSIM Challenge!  Get your RED – Remember Everyone Deployed – Patch and Tab.  It is the most visible sign that any MILSIM player can do to support the veterans they are emulating. 

 

 

 

See you on the battlefield! 

 

Blacksheep6 

 

 

 

 

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