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JBLM team - on target

Airsoft sport growing in the Northwest

Mike Kramer, a member of the Washington Army National Guard, rests for a moment during Operation White Jindo VIII. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

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Airsoft is a military simulation sport that brings the warrior out in people.

"It sure beats sitting at home and playing Xbox," joked Paul Asetre, the sport's leading advocate in the Puget Sound.

Airsoft participants range in age from high school to well past retirement age.  

"We used Airsoft for training while I was in Hawaii," commented Joseph Merritt, an Army veteran.

"And it's cheaper than paintball."

For the eighth time, the Fort Lewis-McChord Airsoft Group, which is sponsored by Praetorian Guard Airsoft, participated in Operation White Jindo.

The word "jindo" alludes to a breed of fierce and loyal hunting dogs thought to have originated on Jindo Island in South Korea.

As to Airsoft, it began as a reaction to restricted gun ownership.

Laws against privately owned firearms in Japan-led gun enthusiasts to create an alternative.  During the 1970s, gun manufacturers produced spring-powered, detailed replicas that fired plastic pellets.

Airsoft guns soon became popular in the Philippines, Hong Kong and Taiwan before coming to Europe and America.

Modifications to these simulated weapons soon resulted in electric and gas-powered Airsoft guns.

"Go ahead, pick it up and see for yourself," invited Rory Evavold, an Army veteran, as he loaded pellets into a clip.

His weapon, a gas-powered SCAR-H (Special Operations Forces Combat Assault Rifle - Heavy) mirrored the real version of the weapons except it fires pellets rather than 7.62 bullets.

"It also doesn't have the range that a real SCAR-Heavy has," he added, "but in every other aspect it is as real as it can be."

Last weekend's two-and-a-half day operation, conducted over 150 acres of logged-off land and rolling hills, is a continuation of the Airsoft community's annual military simulation, or MilSim, of a North Korean invasion of South Korea.

Some of the over 100 participants played the role of advancing North Koreans with Russian and Chinese support.

The other half acted as the South Korean forces and their American and Japanese allies.

"At this point," commented Asetre, "the South Korean forces will go to an evacuation area while the North Koreans attempt to prevent that."

For every member that the South Korean team got to the evacuation area, the more points it scored.  On the other hand, the more the North Korean team killed or captured, the more points it scored.

"This is great training, there are safety rules in place, and young people get the chance to see how the military operates," said Steve Gillson, as the scenario began.

For about an hour, the two forces probed for an advantage.  In the end, the South Korean forces managed to reach the evacuation point with a majority of their forces.

"This is just a great way to play, train and have fun," said 1Lt. Patrick Culver, 6th Group, Criminal Investigation Division.

"It's a great way to be with vets and my high school buddies."

For more information about Airsoft, visit www.meetup.com/Fort-Lewis-McChord-Airsoft-Group or call 253.227.3240.

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