You will be redirected to the page you want to view in  seconds.

Scenarios tailored for fun, tactical training

Oct. 22, 2009 - 09:15PM   |   Last Updated: Oct. 22, 2009 - 09:15PM  |  
  • Filed Under

TACOMA, Wash. I was "dead" in 15 seconds. The Ranger got me with a clean shot to the gut. The next time, I did better, taking a couple of gunrunners down before taking a burst to the knee and crumpling to the floor.

Yeah, I thought I'd do better, but it wasn't just my pride that was suffering. A week later, deep red welts would still pepper my body like chicken pox. The retired first sergeant who also participated in the fight had it worse, with a good flow of blood oozing from a round he took in the neck.

Only days before, I had been talking to a friend about just how ridiculous Airsoft seemed. BB guns for grown-ups? Dressing up and playing soldier? Really?!

Sounded like a nerdfest for military wannabes. Thing is and this is just undeniable it was a blast.

Immersive experience

The place: Tacoma Tactical. It just opened a few weeks ago; the old brick warehouse in one of the scratchier parts of town has been converted into an 8,000-square-foot urban war house complete with an indoor neighborhood, a mocked-up bank and a maze of corridors.

Depending on the scenario offered, speakers pipe in anything from ambient street sounds to a full-on raging battle soundtrack.

The place is the brainchild of Jason Daniel, a former information technology guru, and former 1st Sgt. Darryl Swift, a 27-year Army veteran who retired two years ago.

"We're trying to make this an immersive experience," Daniel said. "We're shooting for amusement-park quality where we can suspend your disbelief and hopefully transport you somewhere else."

Daniel, a legend in the Greater Seattle Airsoft universe, has been running outdoor Airsoft battle simulations and selling the gear and equipment for years.

He's worked with former and current special-operations troops, Rangers and British commandos and a slew of other veterans to hone his small-unit tactical and training skills.

Indeed, as he runs squads of Airsofters through scenarios, he could easily pass for any military training-center leader, offering detailed pre-combat briefings artfully quizzing participants from his whiteboard and then providing thorough after-action reviews once the smoke clears.

Guys and gals with guns

On this day, I'm on a four-person team with a former special forces counterintelligence agent now in college, a young private first class with a fresh "U.S. Army" tattoo on her right arm and on her way to Germany, and a college student armed only with a pistol and a patch sporting the letters GWAG.

"Guy with a gun," he explained with a smile.

The former Ranger is Keith Shores. He jumped into Panama during the U.S. invasion there to capture then-president and druglord-in-chief Manuel Noriega, and unfortunately, today he's playing on the other side.

"This is a blast, and it's great for keeping the skills sharp," he said during a lull in killing me a few times.

He uses his cell phone's camera to peer around corners and litter the floor with our BB-riddled bodies.

"I wish I had this when I was teaching ROTC at Ohio University," Swift said of the Airsoft arsenal. "It's a great tool for the decision-making process. We could have trained a whole lot more.

"That was the problem: We had to go all the way to Fort Knox, Ky., to sign out M16s and blanks or just use rubber ducks," Swift said. "If we had these, it would have made summer camp a whole lot more interesting."

He and Daniel see part of their job as a mission to train up-and-coming soldiers.

They've offered one- to four-day boot camps, teaching everything from basic movement skills to squad-level tactics and leadership, that are often filled with young recruits waiting to ship to basic training.

"We've had several kids call us saying basic was a piece of cake," Swift said, "because of everything we taught them."

Answers by RallyPoint

Join trending discussions in the military's #1 professional community. See what members like yourself have to say from across the DoD.

More In OFFduty

Start your day with a roundup of top defense news.

VA Home Loan

Search By:

Product Options:
Zip Code:

News for your in-box

Sign up now for free Military Times E-Reports. Choose from Money and Education. Subscribers: log in for premium e-newsletters.

This Week's Army Times

This Week's Army Times

CrossFit vs. unit PT
Troops will do the training plans in a $2.5 million study

Subscribe for Print or Digital delivery today!

MilitaryTimes Green Trusted Classifieds Looking to buy, sell and connect on Military Times?
Browse expanded listings across hundreds of military installations.
Faces of valorHonoring those who fought and died in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.
hall of valorThe Hall of Valor is a searchable database of valor award citations collected by Doug Sterner, a Vietnam veteran and Military Times contributing editor, and by Military Times staff.

All you need to know about your military benefits.

Benefits handbook

Guard & Reserve All you need to know about the Guard & Reserve.

guard and reserve handbook