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It was cold and early when I rolled into High Velocity on Sunday morning to prepare for my first time out as Red Team CO for Operation Frostfire.  My XO, Corey “Phoenix” Sarro of Team Recon NY was waiting there for me, and we were the first ones there.  We began getting better-acquainted and hashing some plans while the HiVi staff was preparing to open, and then the rest of Team Aches and Pains started to show up.  We signed in and brought out a canopy, setting up a Red Team base of operations near the HiVi castle.  With us were Joe “The Emasculator”, Rob “Part 67”, Tom “Six-Four”, TJ “Crazy Legs”, Adrian “Spyda Monkie”, Max “Bullet Time”, Frank “Renegade”, and Will “Crazy Will”.  Also joining us were several people who had emailed me with interest in possibly joining TAPs, Kurt and Tobin and their friends.

I noted two milestones for Team Aches and Pains:  this was the one-year anniversary of its inception, and also was the very best turn-out for Team Aches and Pains since we had begun as a team.  Our team had certainly come far in a year!

We were joined by other members of the ERSA, a single Un4Given Ghost (Jeff “Un4Given42”), and two Loaded Crows (Dave “TenaciousD” and Matt “Harrier“).  Another group well-known at HiVi was Frank and Vinny’s crew, who had been in touch with me and brought about 11 people.  One of the traditional Blue teams, NYOC, had also come over to Red to help out our numbers.  Seth “E. Tackleberry” and his EOD boys had not yet arrived, and I began rotating team members to compensate in the meantime.  I handed TenaciousD our new JCS MKX launcher for attacking the HiVi tank—he appeared eager to take some shots at the tank that had dealt the ERSA so much damage at the last HiVi scenario game.  Harrier would be watching his back.  Un4Given42 would be looking after the trenches while Part67 and Frank and Vinny’s crew would begin an attack in the woods.

When you’re a CO, everyone talks to you at once.  The morning was a whirlwind of conversations, including getting TAPs ready with their equipment, meeting the other CO and XO, meeting our refs and the host team Orion, going over missions with the other captains, and meeting so many new people.  With so many meetings the time flew by, and I’ll never remember everyone’s name from that day, but it was a whole lot of fun.

Phoenix and I gave the Red Team our pep talk, and we began to trek out to the field.   We were starting on the Air Force side, which might be considered an advantage.  There would only be three flags in play (Woods, Trenches, and WWII).

At the horn we ran pell-mell for the woods and trenches, and managed to take the hill.  I soon found our radio communications were not set up as I had hoped, and had no one in touch in the woods.  Although we had taken a lot of ground, our team had lost coordination, and began to be whittled down by the Blues.  We were soon on the defensive, with no support from the hill, and I suddenly found myself surrounded by the Blue team and shot three times!  The refs noted I was the last Red player on the field, and began setting up a second run for the game as the Red Team began coming back on.

A Blue team member came over to me.  It was Barney “The Purple Guy”, my CO from this past September’s EMR game “Apocalypse Now”.  He gave me a few quick pointers, and I congratulated him on the quick blitz-like Blue victory.  That moment remains indelible in my paintball experiences.  No smack talk, no jibes, just a true sportsman willing to give helpful advice to a new CO his first time around.  This is what the game is all about.

TenaciousD began taking over radio communications in the woods with Six-Four, acting as my spotter on the hill and watching for the tank.  In his position we were far more coordinated, and began pushing Blue out of the trenches and into WWII.  Un4Given42 was instrumental in rallying the players in the trenches, and TAPs, NYOC, and other Red Team members were holding the line well in the woods.  The Blue team would counter with multiple armor strikes from the tank in an effort to drive us back (earned by completing their missions quickly), but TenaciousD was turning out to be a crack shot with the JCS launcher and a bunch of Nerfs, and the Blue tank was never on the field for very long.  As the morning wore on, we began to make more points with our flags raised.  I was concerned that the morning’s debacle of multiple shots on my person had put us far behind—hopefully we could make more of it up that afternoon.

The cold was wreaking havoc on our markers, most of which would not function.  My own A-5’s cyclone was down to a manual feed like a bolt-action rifle, and Em and 67’s markers were not working well either.  Phoenix’s marker was completely out of commission, and my poor XO was walking around with only a grenade or two to defend himself.  Paint breaks were common as well.  Despite all this, at lunch the Red Team appeared in high spirits, and ready for another go.  Tackleberry, Nemesis, and another EOD member suddenly appeared with their mortar cannons, and were enthusiastically welcomed by the other ERSA members present.

We lined up on the WWII side, Part67 without a working marker but carrying a faux explosive package to run a mission into enemy territory.  When the horn went off, I had EOD set up their cannons on the edge of the trenches while TenaciousD assumed his position on the hill and began spotting for us.  As the rest of the Red Team charged the woods and trenches, EOD began their rain of terror, pouring paintballs and grenades into the sky just as a light snowfall began on the field. 

The afternoon was a blur of activity.  Phoenix and I would deploy and shift Red Team members with encouragement wherever they were needed most, usually in the woods.  The Woods flag became the major Blue-Red area of contention.  Although unable to complete their mission, Em, 67, and Un4Given42 made some fantastic flag runs together, and the Red Team seemed to be holding the important real estate very well.  TAPs and NYOC headed wherever needed, doing especially well on the woods front lines, while EOD led charges in the trenches and kept Blue wary at their own insertion point.  Bullet Time in particular handled himself well beyond his years as a leader and motivator.  Harrier did a brilliant job of protecting our team’s bazooka and its bearer, and I think TenaciousD missed the Blue tank only once or twice.  He had to be the most patient Red player there that day, and it made all the difference.

For it seemed very much like a tank’s game.  Whenever a team was behind or losing ground, they would attempt to call in an armor strike and shift the balance of power.  Blue even attempted running the tank behind enemy lines at the Red insertion point.  Luckily we heard it coming, and I wasn’t hit by it again, although I was shot by long-ballers several times in the afternoon. 

Following one armor strike, Blue had taken most of the field and cornered us in WWII.  Several Red players took it upon themselves to protect me and Phoenix, for which I was very grateful.  I hope I run into those gentlemen again to thank them.  Our armor strike was not far behind, and we began working along the fence line to drive Blue back.  Eventually we retook the field, and after holding the Red flags for a good amount of time, the refs suddenly called the game early for a few quick Castle rounds before we went home.

TAPs declined the Castle shoot out, not having many markers to shoot with anyway.  We packed up, and congratulated on the Blue CO and XO for a very good game.  Phoenix and I made our choices for MVP (TenaciousD) and best sportsman (a young Red player we had seen consistently on the front lines all day).  Orion then announced that the Red Team had won by a narrow margin (5472 to 4656). 

It was a very close game all day, and everyone present seemed to have a great time.  I had learned a lot, got to see some old friends, and meet new ones.  Our own team was really coming along, and I was especially grateful for the advice and assistance from Barney, the NYOC, and the ERSA, and the sportsmanship of the two teams.  Corey in particular was a fine player and an excellent right hand, and I looked forward to playing with him again.  What a way to kick off the 2008 season!  Now if it would just get warm enough for the markers to actually work.....

Christopher “Doc” Winkler DVM