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For members of the Boulder Brigade, this event started back in May when we learned that the event had been planned for late September (which was later changed to October 4-6.) The team began focusing its training and planning sessions with focus being on the upcoming Blacksheep event.
In the days approaching the event, it became clear to us that the weather may include heavy snow, so members were notified to pack winter equipment as well.
On Friday October 4th, team members began departing the Denver area around 10:00am to head north toward Wyoming. It was snowing in Denver, and we were told that the weather would only worsen as we headed north. We were prepared with food, water, a winch, additional fuel, tow strap, and avalanche shovels in the event we would become stuck along the way. Road conditions were as expected, but easily passable. Upon exiting I-25 onto US 26 toward Guernsey the visibility dropped substantially, but the road was still passable.
Upon arriving and registering at the base, we were pleasantly surprised with the amenities provided. At most national events we have attended, the teams are responsible for their own sleeping arrangements which include camping out in the elements, and we would have been prepared to do that if needed. At Camp Guernsey we were provided with comfortable beds, running water, toilets, heating, electricity, and showers. On top of this, the base had made its chow hall available to those attending.
We made our way over to a simulation center where others who had arrived before us were participating in a video simulation of a combat experience. We were not told we would be able to do this ahead of time, again another wonderful thing offered by the great staff involved in assembling this event.
Moving on to game day, we were up with all equipment prepared and vehicles loaded by 10:00am. We were told that departure to the AO (10 miles north) would be at 10:30am. Staff communicated with us, letting us know that road conditions en route to the AO were still questionable due to the snow, and that they were pushing back departure until 12:00pm to allow more time for the snow to melt. En route to the AO, things began to get interesting. The first route was impassible, with the lead vehicle getting stuck in the snow. This is the first time our team member’s avalanche shovels have been used at an event.
An alternate route was then chosen, and it turned out to be even more troublesome. Vehicles, including one of our own became stuck. This time the obstacles were snow, but also deep mud. By around 6:00pm all vehicles that were stuck had been freed and were off the hill headed back to base for a contingency plan.
Upon arriving back at the base, we were disappointed as we knew that the primary AO, which we had done months of planning for, was now out of the question. We were excited to learn there was a new village we would be moving to. We had no intelligence on this facility. We went into this not knowing what we would be seeing, what we would encounter, or even where this was. We were given a crude drawing of the facility on a white board. The term “fuck it, we’re doing it live” became immediately apparent with this new challenge we were presented. We relied on all of the training we had done as a team to support us for going into an unknown area in the dark.
Upon arriving at the new staging area, we were assigned a flanking role and began moving in the dark, heavily relying on the information provided by our members who were night vision equipped. We approached a hillside and immediately began seeing faint lights, infrared signatures were seen by the NOD’s and movement was also observed. We went prone maintaining 360 degree security, reported this back and were instructed to hold our position. Later we were instructed to move forward. We located a truck parked on a dirt roadway. Team members overtook the truck and set up security. We learned that this was a staff truck, not in play, but it had dropped off the OPFOR.
Upon reaching the town, this is where the excitement began. There was an occasional flare which would be put up turning an otherwise moonless night into almost daylight. The team spent a lot of time getting down and dirty in the mud when the flares would go up.
Early on the Boulder Brigade was assigned a points objective to hold. This was the market, a group of several buildings, located on the southwest side of the town. Further to our west, Ground Zero was assigned to hold the mosque. Alpha company launched attack after attack on both locations; however our defensive forced were able to hold these for an extended period. Ground Zero at one point rotated off for reload and rehab. Upon returning to the field, they were assigned to relieve our unit at the market. By this time we had suffered a few casualties, and were beginning to run low on ammunition. Ground Zero approached the market at the time when Alpha was also engaging in an assault on the market. Between the Bravo company forces of the Brigade and GZ, Alpha was fought to the point of withdrawing, however, friendly fire continued between the Brigade and Ground Zero. Both sides suffered some casualties, before the friendly fire situation was discovered and stopped. Medics were still operational, and Brigade medics healed Ground Zero troops before the Brigade withdrew and returned to the Command Post for reload and rehab.
At this point we were told that Ground Zero would be holding the market, and that Kodiak would be holding the garage area. We were told to move out and conduct a sweep and clear to harass, and keep enemy forces away from our strongholds which were points based objectives. The Brigade began to move along the southern end of town toward the east. While moving in this direction, an Operator with NOD’s discovered movement near a building about 75 yards in front of us. Knowing the location of friendly troops, we approached this with the belief that it was a hostile force.
Brigade forces discussed our approach and began advancing on this unknown force to position our unit with multiple angles of fire to ambush and eliminate this unit. While advancing we saw an OC (Observer/Controller Game Staff) begin walking away from this area and was walking toward us. A few seconds later several other OC’s began dispersing from this area. It became immediately apparent that they didn’t want to be there anymore. Almost immediately a bright and loud explosion went off approximately 20 feet in front of us. This was followed by a heavy volume of smoke in the area. Brigade members took cover not knowing what had just happened. The Bravo Company Command Staff then informed field units of a friendly aircraft that had just been shot down in the area, and that the mission was to locate, and extract the downed pilot back to the command center. Brigade Operators located a “Rescue Randy” type of dummy who was dressed in flak jacket type body armor (we estimated the dummy with his ballistic equipment to be nearing 250 pounds in weight.) One Brigade fire team established a 360 degree security perimeter around the dummy while the other prepared a stretcher and loaded the pilot onto the stretcher. We then began our trek back the Command Post with the dummy. We did not encounter any enemy forces while en route back.
Following the completion of this mission (FRAGO), the Brigade continued with our original sweep and clear mission. We travelled east along the southern end of the town, before reaching the extreme eastern edge of the town and then proceeded north to the extreme northern end of town. At this time we began proceeding west along the northern border. We began approaching the north western side of town when we received information that another aircraft had been shot down and another pilot needed rescue. Team Kodiak was dispatched to handle this situation. Just then an all too familiar loud explosion, approximately 50 yards in front of us occurred. A flare lit up the sky and we saw a helicopter on the ground and smoke. We moved in, located the pilot and set up 360 degree security, awaiting Kodiaks arrival. While in our security position, two more flares were launched turning night into day. We could see Alpha Company (enemy) forces quickly approaching our position. A fire fight ensued just as Kodiak arrived with us. Ground Zero, also in the area began engaging Alpha to allow the Brigade and Kodiak to begin the extraction of the downed pilot from the helicopter.
Tactical decisions were made to keep medics further back away from the fire. Extraction began following a reverse course of how the Brigade had entered the area as we felt this route would be the most likely to succeed given that it had just been travelled safely, and the other routes were the unknown. Once this plan was established, this turned from a stationary gunfight to a moving gun fight. The Brigade and Kodiak forces consisted of approximately 15 Operators at this point. The run and gun involved members switching from gunning positions to carrying positions as everyone took their turn dragging carrying the dummy by the arms and legs. Alpha Company proceeded with a run and gun assault to intercept and stop the extraction of the downed pilot. This is one of the most intense firefights we can remember ever being involved in. The red and green tracers flying back and forth, flares being launched, the running, the yelling, it was more intense than I can put into words. Bravo Company was able to successfully return the downed pilot to the Command Post. The return route took us approximately 275 yards in distance.
Bravo was successful in this FRAGO as well. This was the definition of team work. Without the dedication and effort of every individual involved from each team involved, this mission would not have been successful. Every member was exhausted from a high speed extraction in full kit, of a 250 pound dummy while under fire. Alpha Company should be commended for the excellent resistance which they put forward against Bravo during the extraction. Bravo suffered multiple casualties along the way, but somehow managed to return the pilot to the Command Post.
Following this mission, forces rehabbed, and reloaded. A short time later, members from Alpha Company, and Bravo Company (including Boulder Brigade and Ground Zero) were called into the OC’s staging area to be briefed on a FRAGO which would be occurring. This mission outlined a downed individual in the field who needed to be rescued. We were told that the individual had an IR strobe light affixed to him, was approximately 200 meters away, bearing 210 degrees.
The Brigade and Ground Zero formulated a rescue plan. This included designating a locate & rescue unit, a security unit, and a harassment unit. Those tasked with locate and rescue were equipped with NOD’s, and was each assigned a medic. The security unit was to be their blanket of protection to allow them to focus on their duties without needing to worry about being in a fire fight. The harassment unit was to engage and delay the Alpha Company Operators who were also tasked with locating and retrieving the objective. The harassment and security unit placed a buffer between the rescue units allowing them to quickly advance on the objective while Alpha was engaged in a fire fight. Upon locating the objective, who was once again our good friend Rescue Randy, he was picked up and the extraction began to take place. The security force began to escort the rescue team back to the CP while the harassment unit continued to engage Alpha to impede their progress toward the unit on the move. Again the sheer weight of the dummy became an issue with carrying him in full gear over a long distance. Members of rescue and security alternated positions and each took turns carrying him. As the rescue team was approaching the market on the edge of the village, we were no longer under fire, well out of AEG range of enemy forces, an OC approached the rescue team and informed us that we had been mortared and that all in this area were now dead. This caused confusion among the rescue team as we were specifically told in the briefing that only buildings could be mortared, and not outdoor ground troops. We were also told that “area kills” were not allowed, and only those on the floor of a building mortared would be effected by the mortar. Normally admins would not contradict their own rules, but this is what we were experiencing. Despite the setback, supplementary Bravo forces moved forward taking custody of the objective and returning him to the OC command post allowing Bravo Company to successfully complete all three of the FRAGO’s presented during the event. Bravo Company was later told in the closing ceremony that we were the first to ever be mortared by staff during a Blacksheep FRAGO.
Daylight was coming soon. It was now around 6:00am, and we were told that the OPFOR would soon be returning and attempting to overrun the village. The Brigade, just coming off a 30 to 40 minute rest cycle was sent to the Garage to relieve Kodiak who was assigned this points location. The Brigade took security on the Garage and the U building to the northwest. Alpha company moved in and mounted an attack on our location with fire coming from the center of town. All those who attempted to over run our location were stopped, despite heavy fire and us suffering several casualties. Due to our strategic placement and use of medics we were able to bring our troops back into the fight and keep our stronghold.
Sunday ended with several missions against the OPFOR, most involved Alpha and Bravo working together to combat the OPFOR who provided heavy resistance and made for a challenge with some intense fighting. By the end of the Op at 12:00pm on Sunday, most of the Brigade squad members were pretty worn out. We had been awake since 7am Saturday morning, and permitted two "rest" periods combining for less than 1 hour of total sleep. It was a true test of endurance.
In the closing ceremony, we were told that the score at the end of the day had Bravo Company coming out on top. But… it didn’t feel like the score really mattered all that much. It was about the team work. It was about making it to the end of the event. It was about proving to yourself that you could do it. This was a challenge to the participants on many levels. It tested your physical abilities, mental abilities, problem solving, emotions, dedication and team work. The temperature dipped into the mid 30’s, it was muddy, and it was dark. Most of this would drive players away, but not this group. They saw this as a challenge, an obstacle to overcome, and they did. The attitude of the players, and the sportsmanship shown was like none I have seen before at other events. All of us could take pride that we were strong enough to make it through, and have the respect for the others who were there as well.
Most organizers try to make an event, and follow a scripted story line. At this event we were largely without the story line. We were presented with missions and continuous surprises being thrown at us from start to end. Having random explosions going off, flares, surface to air munitions, the pneumatic 50 Caliber machine gun bring fired. It all brought it together to make it an event that kept you on your toes the entire time, because you never knew what was around the corner, when something might explode right in front of you, or when you may be attempting to cross open area only to be exposed by an airborne flare. The abundant use of explosives and other effects was impressive to say the least.
While there was some disappointment in losing the main AO, Blacksheep cannot be faulted for the inclement weather. Being from Colorado, we understand that freak storms happen and typically with very little notice. We can only hope that in the future this event is held in either late August or early September when it’s not in the blazing hot summer temperatures, but also before the typical snow season for the region starts. All things considered, it was an enjoyable experience and we will be back for Guernsey next year.
Good job, and thank you to Blacksheep Milsim, OPFOR, OC's Camp Guernsey Staff, Sponsors, and all those who participated in the event.