A little while ago we asked “What’s airsoft?” Harry Hardin answered by telling us what it means to him and the Chicago Airsoft Association. All images courtesy The Chicago Airsoft Association.
Having read Nige’s question, it got me to thinking about how we play over here in Chicago and whether it is much different to what you’re doing in the UK.
Having played paintball and being a re-enactor and living historian, I came to airsoft about five years ago. A friend of mine at work knew I was into this sort of thing and asked if I wanted to try it. We tried it, liked it and joined a team called CGAT, short for Coldstream Guards Airsoft Team. CGAT is an extension of a group of re-enactors that portray the Coldstream Guards over the centuries. I started playing seriously in 2009 and my team was invited to join the Chicago Airsoft Association in 2010, which was great because I was named “Most Valuable Player” for making it to every game, buying an M249 and becoming the team’s support gunner.
The Chicago Airsoft Association is a private association which teams join by invitation only. It was the brainchild of Bryan K Monohan (an Iraq war veteran and County Sheriff) and puts on two public and four private games a year. As a group we pay dues to belong and those dues pay for our insurance and props and allow us to put on games that are different to anything else around.
The structure of each game is mission and objective driven; it’s MilSim but with a very important twist.
Each team receives points for having their players ready to go at the time printed on the schedule; for achieving the objective listed before the mission time expires and for causing the most re-spawns for the other team. We call it “Tactical Sport” and it rewards players for honour, integrity and dedication. In addition, each player is required to have some form of load-bearing equipment – most players choose MOLLE plate carriers and chest rigs, over-the-ankle boots, an FRS radio and all team members must have the same uniform. For me it is green DPM and Dessy. I use a PLCE gear chest rig most of the time and my plate carrier in the cold. Full seal goggles are required, since all of the fields in this part of the world require them and no hi-cap magazines are allowed unless you are operating a machine gun.
So that’s the basics. Weapon-wise, most players use some form of M or AK series. Personally I carry an M4, since parts are everywhere for them and mags are cheap.
We practice tactics, we work together and the scenarios are set up to be challenging. None of the missions are easy and most require moving all over an eighty-acre field. Some of the games require teams to limit the amount of magazines carried, based on attendance that day. We have doctors, veterans, cops, firefighters, IT professionals, tradespeople – almost every walk of life and some of our players have been playing for nearly a decade.
In the last few years we have really pushed back the boundaries of what is possible. Our public games are growing all the time and for the larger ones each player is issued with a jersey to keep identification simple. For example, in one game named “Black and Tan” the shirts are either black or tan, and no they don’t come with a glass of the adult beverage. We also use bar coded id cards to record trips to re-spawn. On each trip to re-spawn the card is scanned, just like the check out at your favourite store, which is a great way to keep track of player and game statistics. We have also used remote controlled cars and helicopters for some missions, which I have yet to hear anyone else trying.
At the CAA’s private games the turnout is normally somewhere between thirty and forty players. Sometimes the sides aren’t balanced and that is just fine. There was one epic battle when it was seven of us against twenty plus players. We held our position and won the day even though we were outnumbered. Off the field of battle we are all friends and like to feel that we are both team and community spirited.
At the beginning of the year, our founder put out the word that a veteran he’d met in Court and was trying to get his life back together needed some very basic things. All this man was asking for was a chance and the tools to take advantage of any opportunity he was given. Almost to a man everyone donated something, whether it was a backpack, a good winter coat, gift cards for hygiene items, clothes, transportation, even a line on a job (entry level but it was something). Members drove him to the VA hospital where he had cancer removed and this was all done without anyone getting paid to do it. I am very happy to report that this man is now operating under his own power and grateful for the hand up. That was all he wanted.
At our last public game, “Apex Checkmate”, we arranged a food drive for local veterans and their families, which was all done by word of mouth through local churches and player donations.
Our last game was a Black and Tan game that incorporated armed role-players, of which I was one. The scenario was that two Private Military Contractors were fighting over a Country. I was one of three government agents and it was my job was to set up chaos and mayhem. One of the teams was in desert digital and the other was in tiger stripe. The game kicked off by a sniper trying to shoot one of us – he did, and the war was on. Me, I wore a black or tan shirt depending on the mission. Chaos was my job and chaos is what I caused.
I get a real buzz from playing with the CAA on open games, since they are all adults who love to play and learn new tactics, although for me, the best part is that I am playing with my friends. What I should mention is that I drive about 100 miles to play but the games are that good, the organization is that strong and the friendship is that important to me. When a group of us go to a public game what makes us successful is our ability to coordinate and communicate. Not that we are superior shots or athletes, it’s just that we have the basics down and have learned (sometimes the hard way) what works and what doesn’t.
I went to a game here in my home state and a guy I play with regularly, asked if he could buy a Coke from me. I told him no and handed it to him – that is the kind of spirit our organization has.
Find The Chicago Airsoft Association on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ChicagoAirsoftAssociation