By: Jimmy “Bones” Beckett Photos: Jimmy and Ross Oder
Twenty-four hours of continuous nonstop airsoft action sound like a good time to you? How about an amazing MOUT site. Did we mention a barracks to stay in before the game with showers and food? Sounds pretty good right? That was Operation Blacksheep @ Camp Shelby in Mississippi.
AREA OF OPERATIONS
There are urban warfare training sites all around the country that our US military has built up to train our solders before they deploy around the world. They make for some of the more incredible environments to play in. The level of realism is at an all-time high for obvious reasons and many of them are pretty new, only having been made in the past decade. The one at Camp Shelby in Mississippi is no different. This massive site with several multi-story buildings, as well as elevation changes, tunnels, day and nighttime cameras, audio systems, smoke machines and even scent machines, combined to make for a great experience. On top of all of these amenities we were given a few site officials to run the systems and really mess with a player’s head. With a camera covering nearly every square inch of the facility, these controllers knew what was going on.
The Blacksheep MilSim ruleset is simple yet affective. I will give you the brief version but the rest can be looked up online. Each squad has 11 people. They are allowed two saws per squad. Only the saw/support gunner can use full auto. The rest of the group must use semi-automatic fire. This helps create more movement within the site and gives a purpose for the guy carrying the heavy weapon. There are also two medics per squad. Each medic has eight bandages, giving the fill squad 16. When a player is hit they yell it out, pull a red rag and wait for a medic to come over and tie on a bandage. Once all of the bandages have run out, the squad must Redcon and return to their respawn.
This ruleset not only creates a real purpose for each player but it also promotes a more realistic style of play. Your squad is kept together and there are no lone wolfs. There are of course, many other rules, all of which are common sense so I will spare you the full version in this article.
At this particular Blacksheep event, five others and I were lucky enough to be selected for the XO role, also known as Executive Officer. At a Blacksheep event, an XO acts as a commander when there is no senior military member to act as CO or commanding officer. For this event there were six total. Alpha Company (green team) consisted of Bernie VanBuskirk, Daniel Dally and I. For Bravo Company (tan team) there was Ross Oder, Rick Craft and Doug Mancuso. Taking on this role was a new challenge for me and created a very unique experience. I had been a squad leader several times as well as a platoon leader at a Blacksheep event but never had I been put in charge of so many people at an event like this. Fortunately I had two other trusty guys to split the load, each bringing a unique skill set and personality to the table.
Alpha Company and Bravo Company assembled in front of their barracks at about 11:45 am. A final briefing was given followed by the command to begin. Each company would truck in one to two squads at a time from the barracks to the MOUT site, about a five-minute drive away. Each team had an XO at a command point near the MOUT site and two coordinating the drop-off of squads. I was tasked with driving in the squad with my sweet rental U-haul van. The first squad that was trucked in and dropped off went without a hitch. They made it from the vehicle to the building and started flipping flags. We then returned to get the next load. About the first half of the players made it in nearly unscathed, but it began to get interesting halfway through the delivery of players. The target buildings began to have enemy players in them or guarding the exterior, forcing us to drop all of our players off at the upper portion of the MOUT site. This did work in our favor and gave us total control of the upper area.
With our forces consolidated in the upper MOUT, we began to make plans to move to the lower area since there was a higher point value and that is what we needed to win. Bernie, aka Tiny, was calling the shots from the control room. What made this game very unique from others was the use of the camera systems. Each team had a control room with monitors to view the MOUT area in a way like never before. This was far cooler than any setup I had seen.
While Bernie was co-coordinating attacks on the lower portion of the town, I was tasked with mortar support. With Tiny’s approval and direction from a squad, I would call for a fire mission. In doing so an OC, or “Observer Controller,” would walk to the target building. When I would fire a shot he would call “splash” and fire an explosive round. Each shot cleared one floor of a building so they would then clear out the players on that floor. This was critical to clearing out key buildings without sending our squads in against an overwhelming force. There was a limit to the rounds so we had to be careful. All the while, Daniel “Hades” or final XO was collecting wounded squads to bring back and dropping off fresh squads to the fight.
The Frago mission is a mission where each team is put on several times through the night. You are pulled from the MOUT site and given a briefing on a target you must hit. The missions range from search-and-destroy to retrieving sensitive materials and points are awarded to those that pass. You play against the Blacksheep MilSim Opfor team. This group of players is directly under Blacksheep’s control and is told to turn up or down their intensity to allow a fair level of play based on the teams going against them. Not everyone wins on these missions. They start a few hours after the event and go until the next morning. Each team typically will go on one. Attention to detail is key and as is setting a good pace because you are limited on the amount of time you have to complete the mission.
As the sun went down the game heated up. I was able to get in some trigger time. I kitted up and hopped in a truck with Shadow Company, Alpha CO 3rd platoon 4th squad with Justin Pinera as the squad leader. We made our way into the lower town and into a two-story apartment-style building. We quickly left the vehicle and went inside, clearing the first then second floor. Fortunately there were no enemy occupants. We flipped the flags to green to signify that we held this part of the building. We were just about to move to the next portion of this building to clear it out when several Bravo Co. players stormed into the first floor. Unfortunately we lost a few players right away while the rest of us held out upstairs. They made a few attempts to come up, however they were shot up very quickly. They then tried a volley of grenades, the first one going straight up the stairs and directly out of the window, getting a chuckle from us. The rest landed in areas where we did not have any team members and only caused an annoyance. Finally they made one great push and with enough people, they were able to take the second floor and wiped out our squad. They had done a great job and like good sportsmen, there were fist bumps exchanged as we exited the building.
On the second outing with Shadow Company we were dropped in the lower town again, this time on the outskirts. We made our way into a somewhat destroyed building, one with walls missing and no roof. I put on my night-vision goggles and looked out at the other buildings; there was some movement here and there and several people on the roof of a four-story building. We split our forces, sending Justin and a few guys across the street, while a few others and I went to one on our right. Each of us made it safely and put out green flags to mark them as friendly and to get points. At a Blacksheep event it is imperative to keep on the move and gaining buildings, because if there is a building that does not have all flags of one color neither team gets, it so attention to detail is imperative. We kept up our momentum until we hit one final building. This one had enemy players in one half as well as several others in the buildings around it. We crept along the backside of the building. Lights out, nods on. As I came to the back window I saw two players standing in the doorway and shot, killing both. Justin and a few of his guys went into the building and shot up the rest, clearing the building, but the casualties were heavy and we were forced to return to base and resupply on ammo, food and water. This is when I parted ways, but I had a very good time playing with this group.
If you haven’t been to a Blacksheep event here is a pro tip. The game is won in this time frame. Two to 6am is when most players begin to drop. Many are tired, fatigued, or just don’t want to continue. It’s the time in the game that many people will meet the “wall” that Blacksheep often talks about. It’s a physical or mental barrier that they must overcome to complete the game if they hope to win. This is also the time when an XO such as Bernie, Daniel or I need to step up our game and keep our players motivated. Institute a rest cycle and keep on going. This is a tactical marathon. Pacing yourself and keeping an eye on each another will help keep your team in the lead.
During this time frame many of our squads dropped out or came back to re-load and rest. In that time the other team was able to come in and catch up in score from our stellar lead. Tiny saw this and began to force people back into the field while I was calling in more fire missions so we could time our teams’ re-deployment into the field with the enemy exiting. Tiny’s frame of mind was that you could eat, nap and re-load in the field. There is no need for you to do so in our respawn when you could be holding ground worth points.
Slowly but surely squads moved back into the field to take buildings yet again. Once more the upper town was cleared out. Dirka MilSim is one squad that seemed to have an abundance of energy and kept the teams moving. I don’t think they ever walked anywhere that was a pretty high speed group of players.
By now the sun had risen and I was moving around on foot, looking to see what we had in our control and what needed to be taken. We had a tight grip on 85 percent of the MOUT site. We did not hold the Mosque and building JJ. These two large buildings had been fought over most of the night but the tan team kept us out. We were not allowed to call in a fire mission on the Mosque so our attention turned to JJ. We called in a strike to help boot the enemy players and then sent in some of our own and were finally able to take it.
The tan team was now held up in the Mosque. Many of our green players huddled in buildings around it peering in, in hopes to take a few pop shots of the enemy. Suddenly a large column of smoke and a flood of tan players came rushing from the front door. Many were shot before they made it to the closest buildings. A few crept out the back in hopes to sneak around but there was a very large flat open area, making the Mosque somewhat of an island with no real cover to escape.
A few tan squads would make attempts to clear buildings on their own all over the area, but few were able to hold the building for very long. At this time the game was over. A cease-fire was called and all players returned to the Command Post to be debriefed and to help clean up the AO that we played in for 24 hours beforehand.
Blacksheep puts on a great event. The 24-hour continuous simulation is no joke. Players are absolutely drained afterward. This particular event was terrific because of the location and full access to the facilities, including the camera system and smoke machines. Another great aspect to this event was each team having the ability to drop off players into the MOUT site with a vehicle throughout the game. No location was safe and the front line could be easily skewed. The wounded rule worked out very well and helped keep your unit cohesive, making teamwork paramount. Toss in the offsite Frago missions and this game seems to cover all the bases. I had a blast, as I do at most Blacksheep events, and look forward to the next one I can make it out to.
Blacksheep Milsim, blacksheepmilsim.com