Words: Jimmy “Bones” Beckett Photos: David Hintz of DaveHintzPhoto.com
What is it that defines MilSim? Above all others, my main criteria are realism and immersion. Having been to events all over the country, I’d like to think I’ve seen it all. I couldn’t have been any more wrong. MilSim West absolutely blew me away by putting on one of the most intense events I’ve ever been to. Their mixture of military vehicles, blank firing guns, pyrotechnics, detailed command structure and immersive missions, all set on an amazing field with varying terrain, made for an unforgettable event. Also the $100 price tag was more than fair for an event of this size, especially for being on a military base.
Held at Camp Rilea in Warrenton, Oregon, the area we used had a lot to offer. Going through the main gate we were greeted by security and given directions to our barracks. That’s right, we had a real place to stay, not a tent, or a hotel offsite for an additional fee, but instead barracks with beds and lockers to store your gear. From the get-go this added to the event. You were placed with your platoon and squad by room so you could mingle with your squad-mates throughout the event. As for the actual area in play, the terrain was always changing, from large fl at areas of open fields to rolling hills and dense vegetation, as well as a reasonably-sized MOUT site. Throughout the weekend we would make our way through everything. Having the fight in such diverse terrain really put your skills and preparation to the test.
The wound rule used at MilSim West is unlike anything I have experienced. When a player is shot, they are instructed to theatrically act out their death. People were screaming in agony on the field calling out for their medics. From then, you have five minutes for another player to pull your bandage from your standardized medical pouch and apply it to you. If, however, you are wounded and no one can make it to you before you bleed out, you go to a casualty collection point (CCP). A designated platoon medic then must simulate giving you aid by having you drink from a water bottle. He will finally repackage your bandage, at which time you are able to resume the fight. This medic rule adds realism and a sense of genuine risk because medical supplies are limited and are issued out only at designated times. There is no “walk back to the respawn,” so getting shot really does matter.
I first heard of the event through a friend of mine who was looking to attend. Admittedly, I didn’t think I would be in for what was to come, but was looking forward to a few days on the west coast. With an oceanfront view at Camp Rilea and nice weather, it was the perfect setting for the weekend.
Prior to the event we received squad and platoon assignments, as well as tons of information about the rules, gear requirements, missions and for those on the Russian side, a translation sheet of orders to be given in Russian. Clearly their dedication to immersion runs deep. The TACSOP (player pack) that was sent out was 62 pages and included everything you could possibly need to know for the event and then some. This helped create a strong base level of player knowledge for the game and gave a good idea of what to expect. Each side also had a private Facebook group to conduct pre-event planning and get hyped up for the event. It was also a good way to get to know some of your fellow squad-mates before the operation. This all meant that upon arrival, after being assigned platoon bays and bunks in the barracks, we were able to easily integrate into the company.
There is a higher expectation of people attending these events both in mindset and gear. It was Russian forces vs. NATO with a Russian-allied local Tatar militia. The standards for kit really added to the immersion. All of the Russians carried AK variants, RPKs, or PKMs while the NATO forces used ARs, M249s, M240s and the like. There was also a set amount of ammo given to the players at any one time, starting at 500 rounds per rifleman, 1,000 for grenadier and 2,500 for Medium Machine Guns. You certainly had to pick your shots with this one but it only added to the event. Also, the use of blank firing rifles is completely innovative. The thousands of blank fire rounds exchanged that weekend made for some heart-stopping moments and definitely set up some of the most intense airsoft firefights that I have been in.
Seeing 230 players in respective NATO, Russian, and Tatar impressions was simply incredible. The Rushing Russians team made up the vast majority of the Russian forces and was an extremely squared away team of guys. The Tartar force sided with the Russian forces and acted as a well-regulated local militia. The NATO elements looked incredibly authentic and were great opponents.
Unlike most events, missions start on Friday night. As it got dark, everyone prepared for a key leader engagement with the Tatars later that night. Briefed using a highly-detailed PowerPoint presentation done in an OPORD format, we were walked through every step of the operation. It was very professional and because it was done as a true military OPORD, it added to the immersion. We then loaded up on the trucks and made our way out to a rally point to where we were to approach the town. The lead platoon infiltrated the town and made contact with Adnan Pasha, the Tatar leader, and established some rapport before calling in the Russian Major. At this point, the supporting platoons rolled in and provided security for the five-ton truck with their supplies and our Major. Despite the relationship being contentious, the Tatars were severely under-supplied and in serious need of our ammo and medical equipment. The drop-off occurred and the Major met with Adnan, at which point we received traffic that NATO elements were tracking our movements and planning on raiding the town. As tension built we got accountability and pulled out in phases, leaving security in the hands of the Tatars. While elements in the village did not hit contact, the tense situation helped build the atmosphere and narrative of the event.
Saturday began with a 0700 wake-up call and a bit of time to eat the food you had brought with you and load up. Ammo and bandages were disseminated through the chain of command to be sure everyone was ready for the full day of operations ahead. The leadership, from Commanding Officer to squad leaders, were briefed and given specific instructions for the beginning tasks of the day. The mission intent was then passed onto squad members after the meeting. Having an established chain of command was a nice touch and really helped to keep the game functioning properly. Our forces loaded up into two five-ton military trucks to be taken to our drop-off point. They would have to make several trips in order to bring out all of our forces. We arrived at a sandy location with very dense brush around us. We unloaded and took up security positions to wait for the remaining forces before heading out. It was quiet; the weather was perfect with a hint of sun poking through the clouds. After pulling security for about 10 minutes, the rest of the 1st platoon 1st squad was dropped off and we began our mission to keep high-speed avenues of approach clear and to assist the Tatar militia when necessary. I served as the point man for our fireteam for much of the game. Our route took us on and off trails, over some open terrain and through some thick vegetation. Along the way we made several stops to listen and observe for enemy movement. After some time we took a position of high ground and established an observation post. Ten minutes later we spotted a patrol of NATO forces coming through the woods in the area below us. As I trained in on four enemies, our squad leader gave the order to wait for his call to engage and the tension began to build. On his call, our whole squad opened fire with rifles, a PKM and a blank-firing AK. It made for a very loud and intense engagement. Several of the NATO team members dropped in the initial firing, and those that did not threw smoke grenades to extract their wounded. As they pulled away, they ran into another group of Russian forces that finished off their group. Our ambush was successful with only two casualties. After this, we swept the area for any other NATO units. All had been taken out so we fell back, regrouped with other Russian forces and ate in the field.
Our next maneuver took us back toward our insert location. We linked up with a few more friendly units and were moved via a technical to our mortar position. Once we arrived, we set up a small defensive position to keep enemy forces from taking out our fire support. In the meantime the mortar crew, operating a fully functional blank-firing Russian 82mm mortar, continued to hammer NATO positions. After about an hour we were given the order to reposition the mortar. In about a platoon-sized element, we picked up our kit to move across a large open field and onto a side trail. This was a very tense moment for us because of the lack of cover. We did have superior numbers on our side as we moved across and the mortar barrage we unleashed before moving kept many of the NATO forces at bay. Managing to avoid contact, we pushed across the field and set up at our new location. With friendly forces in security positions at either end of the road we had an effective and secure location, given the hasty planning.
After a long day in the field, we came back to our barracks for about two hours of downtime to rest, relax and refit for the night. As that was wrapping up we were given a brief. Our forces were ordered to extract an HVT from a target building in a town close by. One platoon was ordered to take a building on the outskirts of the town to both draw the attention of the enemy and lay down covering fire. The other two platoons would make a push from a nearby tree line up to a phase line, where they would begin their assault on the target building. As we moved on foot from the barracks to the tree line just outside of the town, we observed the supporting platoon position itself in and around their support by fire building. The call was given and a mix of airsoft and bellowing blank gunfire like I had never experienced rang out. We were on our feet and sprinting to the target building. Unfortunately many of us, including myself, were cut down before we made it inside. A few managed to make it to the building and healed the wounded. We then moved in and cleared the building, but not without heavy resistance from the second floor. We found our HVT, assembled and extracted him to our barracks.
This would be the final day of battle. We again woke up at about 0700, had some chow, resupplied with bandages and ammo, and conducted pre-combat inspections. Once more our platoon, squad and team leaders had a briefing for the day. We were supposed to be resupplying the Tatar militia who were holding the nearby village. We then promptly loaded into the trucks and moved out. We drove down the road for a few minutes before stopping and being told to dismount. We immediately took fire, blanks ringing out, so we ran for cover. The enemy was on our nine o’clock, up a hill. Our squad turned toward the contact and began a flank to the far left before we began to move up the hill through the brush. We were a little late to that party and missed the small firefight that ensued so we continued to push past our friendlies to provide security. Once the enemy positions were cleared, our fight shifted its attention and we moved into the small town to assist our Tartar allies and keep the NATO forces from entering.
The fighting was intense within this MOUT phase of operations. NATO units were splitting up in what seemed to be a multi-sided attack. There would be a pause in the action and we would be hit from multiple sides. The blank fire, pyrotechnics and grenades echoing through the buildings helped you feel completely immersed. The NATO elements were a determined enemy. They would conduct squad-sized assaults using the cover of smoke but would get cut down by highly organized Russians. The MilSim West staff did a good job of using the respective chain of commands to rotate in and out elements so that the MOUT fighting did not devolve into a typical run-and-gun airsoft situation. As the Russians ran out of ammo and medical supplies, the weekend came to an end. An AAR was conducted with everyone contributing and having some time to chat with their friends, enemies, and the staff. Everyone walked away tired but with a big smile on their face.
Any weekend spent outdoors is a good one for me and this weekend was incredible. It was unlike any other airsoft event, from the mix of blank fire and command to the ever-changing environment that we seemed to be fighting in. I highly recommend a MilSim West event if you want to have an immersive experience over trigger time. If you value being on a real recon, patrol, calling in fire missions, using command structure, having reenactment-level impressions or innovative medic rules versus running at each other with BBs flying, then you must come to the next MilSim West event. From great terrain to a seamless event, it was a smooth operation and worth the travel cost and entry fee.