CQB Run-n-Gun in the South Georgia Sun
Words By: Jonathan Higgs
Photos: Jonathan Higgs
As we rounded the second curve we saw it; hundreds of wrecked and abandoned cars strewn across the road. The sight of such desolation made us hit the brakes to take it all in. Did we accidentally drive onto the set of The Walking Dead?
For a moment we thought it was possible, until a pickup truck came driving down the far side with players waving from the driver’s side window. Yep, we were at the right place…time to get a move on. A few more corners and dodging a handful of dummies sprawled out mid-road (extremely creepy at night, I might add) we saw the main gate. We were here.
We continued down the paved streets and around a handful of the same parked cars we saw on the way in, toward the center of town. The city spans 13 square blocks, complete with one-, two- and three-story buildings, streetlights, a floodable housing tract with eight homes and paved roads throughout. There was even more to the facility, but most of that was off-limits due to safely concerns, including a simulated underground tunnel road and two destroyed buildings setup for FEMA rescue training.
The base was beyond impressive, and the largest MOUT (Military Operations on Urban Terrain) facility I have experienced. We continued to drive around and be amazed at the expansiveness of the facility. The base had only been open for six months, but they didn’t miss a single detail.
Buildings were all made of cinder block and had industrial staircases to upper floors. Rooms were totally furnished with beds, desks and even paintings. The floor plans were wide open with modular wooden and sheetrock walls that could be moved around to change up the configuration. They even had a boxing ring in the gym, and a hair salon complete with barber chairs. It was easy to get sucked in wandering the grounds.
But we were on a mission, our destination: The command center for Mindgame Productions and a check-in with Mac McLaughlin, the CEO of the company, as well as Brian Gilbert (of Mindgame Productions and Merlin’s Blogspot) and Brian Simmons (MGP).
MGP has been running games in Florida and on the East Coast for many years, and holds the title of the longest-running event promotion company on that side of the Mississippi. Most notable for their Wasteland and Rainbow Six-themed events, this was their first real push into a full Milsim event. With such an amazing and new AO, they pulled in Milsim players from around the country to fill up the 500-person roster. And that’s why we were here. The Guardian Centers facility in Perry, GA was only six months old, and we wanted to be one of the first to experience Milsim at this fantastic facility. And after a nice drive around to get the lay of the land on this multi-million-dollar MOUT complex, it was time to work our way to the check-in.
Upon arriving at the only painted building in the city, we knew we we’re at the right place. We hopped out and headed inside the air conditioned admin building. And air conditioning was a welcome thing, as the climate of south Georgia in late August can be oppressive, with mid-90 degree temperatures and near 100 percent humidity forecasted all weekend long.
We made our way through the check-in process, including chrono and a short rule brief and headed up to our room to stow our gear. Tonight was the calm before the storm. We were invited to a meet-and-greet at the Helo Pad on the roof with the other attending media, and we enjoyed a few cold beverages while talking with the likes of Gregory Wong (Spartan117GW), Shwell, Kilroy (MAKO TV) and MSG “Mad Max” Mullins from the web series “Black” to name just a few.
Talking with Mac and Brian Gilbert from MPG, we couldn’t help but feel welcomed and comfortable at the AO. The leadership and staff of MGP were nothing but friendly and accommodating to us and the rest of the media that made the long trip in. Before we knew it, it was time to head back to the hotel and turn in for the 30 hour event that was poised to start the following day. It was going to be a long weekend and we were due some rest from the seven hour drive in.
Morning came early, and after filling our bellies with a tasty Waffle House breakfast, it was off to the facility for a weekend of airsoft excitement.
We pulled into the gate around 8:00 am and unloaded in the gravel parking lot. With the event starting in a few hours, we began the tradition of loading magazines and gearing up. Hydration bladders were filled and Tornado grenades charged up for the upcoming marathon event. We stashed extra water and PowerAde near the car for breaks, and turned our radios on to communicate…it was getting close to kickoff time.
We headed to the safety briefing to get a last minute rule refresher course. The rule set was standard game instructions: engagement distances were limited to 10 feet for all players, 50 feet for Support Weapons and up to 100 feet for Snipers. Any hit aside from a weapon strike would be an instant out, and grenades of any type, including ThunderBs, would have a 15-foot kill radius regardless of cover.
There was a twist in the medic rules for the event: they mixed up the simple “tag you are back in” medic rule with the addition of a card system that medics were required to carry. Each medic had two decks of “injury cards.” The first deck was for players wearing a plate carrier and helmet, and the other was for players wearing light or no armor. Upon your first death, a medic would run up and randomly draw a card from the appropriate deck to determine your injury. Cards ranged from “You’re lucky, no injury” to “Hand injury, cannot use primary hand” to “Instant death, return to respawn.” The armor deck had fewer injuries and death cards to benefit the players who made the choice to run a full loadout.
The medic would tie on a bandage and based on your injury, you would have to role-play until your second death or if your squad returned to the respawn/FOB area. Once hit again with a bandage on, you had to return to the respawn area and wait for your entire squad to show to get back in the game. This forced some needed rest and rehydration for the 30 hour game, and also made squad leaders stop and think about squad effectiveness.
After getting a rule refresher, it was time to head to the starting area and get the game going…finally, some trigger time!
The game began thunderously with a loud boom in the distance. The US team (the side I was assigned to) took off to knock out our first mission: The SAM sites. The Russians held the town and we had to clear the airspace before we could get it back. Fighting was intense, with building-to-building battles lasting over an hour each. Main floors were taken easily, but it was a true test of CQB skills to move your way up to the higher floors. Stairwells became deadly, and only a strong team push up would allow access to a heavily fortified top floor.
As our team moved through the buildings working toward objectives, I began to notice a pattern. While it was possible to take a building, it was almost impossible to hold one as your team moved forward. The base was so large that the 250 vs. 250 fighting forces simply didn’t have enough manpower to both take the objectives deep in the city and hold a significant amount of strategic buildings at the same time.
As the day moved on, this became more apparent. And other challenges arose as well. Radio communication was difficult in the urban environment, and once a squad made their way across the town, the large concrete and steel buildings prevented communication back to command. Most squads had to make a field judgment on their own objectives, and calling in an airstrike to take out a heavily defended building was next-to-impossible. While not insurmountable, the breakdown in communication did cause quite a few squads on both sides to fend for themselves.
Heat was the other looming concern at the event, and it wore down player and admin alike. Many players were not prepared for a hot summer event and found their way back to their cars early to seek refuge from the sweltering Georgia sun. As the day went on, more and more players took breaks to avoid becoming a heat casualty. With this being a 30-hour straight game, it was at the players’ discretion to decide when and where to take a breather.
While the idea of a non-stop game is good on paper, adding heat to the equation forced many of the players out of the game early, leaving a very sparse battlefield for those that were prepared. Once the communication broke down from game control and command and players started dwindling, we were left deciding our own fate.
Now if you are enterprising players, like our team was, you can make lemonade from lemons. So, we rallied up the team and made the decision to create our own objectives. Moving building to building, we made it our mission to push our way to the Russian’s FOB and keep them back. Laying down covering fire while our squadmates sprinted across open streets, we were finally able to get their FOB in sight.
We decided to stick around for a while to harass a large group of 50 players moving into the field, but after an hour of hard fighting against the force (and their tank), the building we were in was hit with an airstrike, sending us all back to respawn.
Timing could not have been better, because once we were back in the admin building, it was time for our Black Mission. The Black Mission is a scripted, squad-based, mission against a dedicated OpFor in a closed-off part of the facility. Mindgame Productions made the call to use the Guardian Center’s subway simulator as the backdrop for the event. Nearly 1/4-mile long, two sets of tracks extend through a pitch-black tunnel to a subway platform at the end. They even had five decommissioned DC Metro subway cars that you board and clear.
The objective was to enter the subway, make your way down using stealth or force, and set a bomb to destroy a cache of nerve gas that the opposing forces had planted.
The team I ran with (shoutout to team SCD) not only trains together extensively, but also had a full setup of Night Vision Goggles (NVGs). Within 15 minutes of the mission’s start, the SCD guys made quick work of the 12+ player Opposing Force, and located the caches of nerve gas. A small element set three minutes on the detonation timer, and they hauled tail down the tunnel to escape the final blast. Mission accomplished and, according to the admin, it was the fastest run they had to date.
Back from the Black Mission and after a bit of rest, we decided to take on the night for a while. The crowd had thinned to about 100 or so players across both sides at this point, so skirmishes were the name of the game once darkness fell. Most of the 50 vs. 50 that remained had made the large investment into NVGs, so sneaking and hiding was a bit more difficult. If you didn’t have some sort of night optic, you probably became the hunted rather than the hunter.
After some fun playing in the dark, a few of us peeled off to get some much needed rest after 12 hours of play. But, this being a 30 hour game, battles raged through the morning.
Refreshed from a few hours of sleep and a much-needed shower, we arrived early for the final day on Sunday. Some of the team geared up, and I opted to go combat cameraman to get some more great shots from the game.
With the exception of a few pushes out of FOBs into the town, the roaring city-wide skirmish had all but quieted in the early morning. But as the day moved on the remaining 150 or so players came back to life and the action escalated. With a smaller crowd, the admin team was able to regain communication of objectives and the play really heated up.
The battle raged on until the mid-afternoon, with both sides trading in and out of the top spot by just a few points. In a final push, the Russian side was able to gain a final key objective and move the score in their favor. Both sides gave it their all and kept the game close, but sometimes a hail-Mary in the end can win it.
When the last whistle was blown, the players made their way to the raffle. With a thinner crowd, the ones that chose to stick it out were rewarded with a greater chance at some of the amazing swag from the sponsors. With giveaways from great companies like Elite Force, VooDoo Tactical, Kastaway Airsoft , Airsoft Barracks, Dye, Evike, ZShot and HSGI, to name just a few, the lucky winners of the raffle were showered with some fantastic tactical goodies.
Thanks were said and high-fives and hugs went around as the teams all started the process of packing up for the trip back home. Some of the teams had a long drive or flight ahead of them; teams made the trip from California, Pennsylvania and even Canada.
Without a doubt, the facility and complex at Guardian Centers is beyond amazing. It was the closest thing you will get to playing airsoft in a real city, and they aren’t even finished with it yet. But with such a new and expansive area to use, the admin team had nothing to compare it to from previous events and had to forge the way on their own.
And due to this new AO, Mindgame Productions did have some challenges during the op to overcome: the hot weather, the mix of Milsim players and casual airsoft skirmishers and admin communication issues all contributed to mixed feelings from the players as they left from the long weekend.
The event did have its ups and downs, but the AO really made up for some of the challenges that the admin team experienced. Regardless of opinions, I’m still looking forward to the next operation at Guardian Centers, and to see what Mindgame Productions has in the future.