What Makes These Top-Tier Event Organizers Tick?
Blake Danyeur picks up his dusty radio for the third time in so many minutes to answer a question about respawn locations. The CoST force has just moved up on the battlefield and they are trying to determine where their wounded can medic back in.
Such interruptions are common during an active game for the thirty-something members of the American MilSim team. Multitasking is the name of the game when coordinating over 500 players in four factions across 1,100 acres of play area. It’s a careful symphony of chaotic organization, planning and execution that’s both scary and awe-inspiring for an outsider to watch.
Once I’m finally able to corner him during a lull in between battles, I grab his fellow AMS team member John Pilkington, the philosophical planner of the group, and we find a relatively quiet place for a fast chat. Unfortunately the other two members of the team; Bo Steward (aka BigSilva) and Rick Kastner are out of radio range, probably doing what Blake and JP should be while I steal their time (working). But this is the life of an airsoft event planner, and we here to find out what makes American MilSim one of the elite top-tier airsoft event organizers in the USA, tick.
Airsoft Insider – You guys have been at it for a few years now; what was the driving reason to start American MilSim back then?
Blake Danyeur – The reason is to “do work” with the right people. I have hosted a few events in my day but the best way to do it is with the right people. JP, Bo, Rick and I seem to make a good fit and have the same vision. I for one, wanted to bring to the community what I would like to do. So I am jealous of every player at our events that gets to experience what we’re creating; it’s the event I wish I could attend myself.
John Pilkington – I agree; we wanted to build a better player experience than what was being offered. We wanted to create events that “we as players” would kill to attend, and at the end of the day we genuinely care about doing our best to deliver that “one-of-a-kind, never going to forget” experience at every AMS event.
AI – What’s the hardest part about organizing a national airsoft event?
BD – Registration! That’s why I keep the other AMS boys believing I can’t read or write.
But honestly, for me the hard part is finding the right AO (playing area) and working it… calling person after person with your fingers crossed, sitting on the edge of your seat praying it works out. And then, BAM! It doesn’t, and you’re back to the drawing board. It’s an emotional roller coaster.
JP – Seriously, to run events of the size and scope AMS does (1,100 acre AO @ DDAP) takes an amazing amount of logistics. From patch and T-shirt design to vendor bag items, BBs, maps… getting them all in line, ordered in the correct amounts and delivered on time, this is no small feat. Not to mention dealing with individual staff, teams, faction command, vehicle crews, vendors, sponsors, EMTs, water, OPRODERs, comms, etc.
The best part is, once you have everything prepared and planned out, be ready for “Mr. Murphy” and his band of merry men to arrive and give you a helping hand.
AI –The primary teams are called CoST and UFS. Can you give us the rundown on what the names mean and what makes each faction unique?
JP – The factions are Coalition of Sovereign States and the United Federal Forces. Each is symbolized by a unique flag, one with five stars representing the states that have broken off from the union (CoST) and one with two concentric rings of the remaining states which are now the United Federal States. The CoST is fighting for their independence and right to be considered a separate nation and the UFS are fighting to bring these states back into the union.
AI – So it’s a fractured union. Is there an over-arching storyline for your events that can affect the next game?
JP – It’s a modern day civil war tale; the outcome of each event dictates the conditions for future events. At Operation Broken Home 2, CoST was able to not only hold their FOB from attack, but they were actually able to flank UFS forces and capture the majority of the scenario territory. Now Coalition forces will march eastward, counter-attacking Federal forces in the next event in the series.
AI – Ok, let’s get real serious here… Helicopters? Come on, that’s pretty awesome.
JP – Yes, not going to lie, they are awesome and add a whole unique dynamic to the event. Until you have “done it” players can’t fully grasp how awesome and easy it actually is to shoot from a HELO, it’s basically shooting fish in a barrel as long as the pilot keeps forward air speed down.
European events have been using HELOs for probably the last six years or more and you will likely see them used more in the States, where local laws permits.
AI – And while we’re on the topic of unique, can you explain the concept of the Direct Action Mission (DAM)?
JP – This baby was Blake’s (Frosty) idea. The concept behind this is to fully immerse a cohesive squad into a living story line, with realistic FX, OPFOR and Pyro. The best way I could describe it would be a “pick your own adventure” type book but with real world scenarios ripped from the headlines. Almost like living in a movie scene, but all your choices affect the outcome – and yes, you can fail.
BD – Really, it’s just fun to make the DAM jokes! Who wouldn’t want to run a DAM mission, testing your DAM skills at a DAM airsoft event?
Ha, just kidding!
I had this in my mind for a long time and thought it was time to bring it to the airsoft community. I feel like in the world of MilSim Airsoft, we needed more.
The Direct Action Mission is all about the lesson; Every DAM has a teachable moment and it’s a test of one’s self and the team’s abilities.
Have you ever tackled someone to the ground and handcuffed them? Probably not, unless you’re law enforcement, a soldier or a DAM Operator!
The sky’s the limit and we at AMS are looking up at the clouds and spreading our DAM wings to fly…. Oh and we do fly—in helicopters!
AI – You’ve also added something new, called an IDAM, in 2013. How is that different from a normal DAM?
BD – IDAM stands for Individual Direct Action Mission, and it’s for the Operator that doesn’t have a full team to run DAM, or can’t get enough DAM in his/her MilSim diet.
The mission can be tailored to the individual, so if you want to run Sniper, no problem. Want to kick in doors like Chuck Norris? You’re covered.
What’s your flavor? We’ve got it! Just let us know and you will be served two scoops of DAM awesomeness!
Our first run of IDAM was at Broken Home 2. The mission was to be infilled to a point, dropped off and make your way to a POW with multiple guards. Rescue the POW, make your way to the LZ, pop smoke and exfil via chopper.
Not a bad way to spend a Saturday if you ask me.
Again, there are lessons to be learned. The lesson here; two is one, and one is none. We had an IDAM Operator make his way to LZ with the prisoner and pop smoke… and in seconds it fizzled and died (the smoke not the helo).
Our pilot never saw smoke and pulled out. Now our friend in the story had to hike a very long way out with the rescued POW in tow. Fun stuff!
(Blake’s radio lights up with activity, and he has to excuse himself to head back into the action)
AI – So, it’s just you and I now… no pressure, right? Wrong. Time for a pop quiz: How many events are you currently producing each year?
JP – OBH2 will be our sixth event as a company, five of those being events in our ongoing linear story line regarding a modern day civil war, the Coalition of Sovereign States (CoST) vs. United Federal State (UFS). We have four more events slated for 2013. We would like to run between six and eight events a year.
AI – Good answer, you passed with an A+. Now for the juicy stuff; are there any new AOs that you can share with us, or new events you are planning on adding to the roster?
JP – As of the time of publication, American MilSim will be holding OP: BLUE|GREY at Ballahack Airsoft in Virginia this October. Chris (the field owner) is a great guy and the venue is pretty killer. We have some really cool features planned for future AMS events (Think DAM + 007/James Bond.) beginning with Ballahack.
AI – Alright, now for the question that everyone wants to know the answer to: This sounds cool; I want to start an airsoft event company now. What advice would you give to me and a newbie?
JP – Stop while you are ahead! Hahaha!
My honest advice would be: Do it because you enjoy and love the sport of airsoft and MilSim. If you are doing it right, it’s a long, slow, tedious and expensive process with a small light at the end of the tunnel for the chance to quit your day job and do this full time profitably.
Do your research; unique AOs and story lines, in my opinion, are key!
Anyone can have an event were Team A fights Team B. It’s taking it to that next level which is difficult and time consuming.
And above all remember: Play nice with others; Karma is a wheel and everything comes back around.
AI – Well said, it’s very true that in this close-knit airsoft community word travels fast… both good and bad. And speaking of good, I’ve seen a professional film crew running around some of your events; can you tell me what that’s all about?
JP – Yes, those would be our buddies at Hot Head Productions. They are currently filming “The Grey State” which is an eerie story set in a not too distant future with a dystopian America. These guys capture and edit most of our event footage and create the killer AMS promo videos you see on our YouTube channel, great bunch of guys.
AI – Your MilSim games aren’t as “formal” as some others, why did you pick this path versus the rigid stand-in-formation version?
JP – At the end of the day we want everyone to have the ability to make that “everlasting memory” the heroic defense of their FOB, the brave charge on the enemy tank, etc… While everyone wants to be “Operator and MilSim” we understand that in reality most players are just not capable of doing a full-on Military Simulation or would even enjoy such a thing.
We try to offer them multiple paths so players that want to Land Nav three miles to an objective through enemy lines to take a picture can do so, and the players that want to just pull the trigger at a strong point in a city can do the same.
AI – Sounds like you guys have the MilSim aspects really figured out, and it’s great to see an event company that challenges the player to be more than just a gun in a battle.
I know I’ve kept you long enough, and appreciate you breaking away for the fray for a while. So, can you tell a friend where the UFS guys are? I have a full mid-cap and I’m ready to cause some trouble.
JP – Nice try. Good luck out there!