Gunfighters fight with paint

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Ryan Crane
  • 366th Fighter Wing Public Affairs Office
They seem like the longest 10 seconds of someone's life. Waiting. Heart racing. Anticipation. Five seconds left. Palms sweating. Two seconds. A brief glance toward the opposing team. One second. Concentrate...

Go! Go! Go!

Players dash to their bunkers for cover while shooting toward the opposite end of the field, hoping one lucky shot catches an opponent just right, eliminating them from the game. It's another skirmish on the base's paintball field. Teams use it to hone their instincts while enjoying themselves. At Mountain Home, paintball brings a whole new meaning to the term "Gunfighter".

Eight amateur paintball teams from across Idaho tested their skills in the base's Excel Paintball Series, earlier this month.

"Over the past few years, the number of paintball players nationwide jumped to a staggering 10 million -- and is still growing," said Mike Hurt, Outdoor Adventure Program coordinator. "Air Force bases around the world noticed this trend, and many of them have since constructed fields that cater to military members."

The base even took this a step further by hosting the Excel Series, one of Idaho's largest paintball events. This series features three tournaments throughout the summer where teams from the base and Idaho compete to earn points from each event. At the end of the series, the team with the most points will take home prizes in the form of paintball equipment.

The morning of the tournament, teams start to trickle in at 6 a.m. setting up tents, buying paintballs and getting their equipment ready for what some call a grueling day of intense play. To many players, this is a way of life.

"It's an addiction. I can't get enough of it," claims Sean Smith, a volunteer and player at Mountain Home. "We come out to practice on Thursdays and travel to tournaments on the weekends. Its really just a lot of fun regardless of age or athletic background."

"The day's events went off without a hitch," said Joni Hubble-Zeneberg, intern paintball coordinator.

The games got rolling by 8 a.m. with the preliminary rounds ending by noon. At the end of the prelims, Idaho local team, Team Bad Medicine was seeded first, followed closely by Crusade and Deadly Aim Black. The sole Air Force team, Air Force One, finished in 7th place.

The teams then went into a double-elimination style bracket with a winners and losers bracket. Teams battled through the second half of the day and slowly started dropping out of the race. By the end, Crusade topped the winner's bracket, and Deadly Aim Black conquered Violent Child in the loser's bracket.

Finalists then took the field, lining up on their respective sides. After a count the whistle blows and players darted to various locations on the field hoping to get the advantage early on. One by one, Crusade shots down one Deadly Aim player after another. But Deadly Aim held their ground, defending their side with two players left.

However, the outnumbered Deadly Aim players fell victim to Crusade within seconds. With time to spare, Crusade hung their flag to signal the end of the game and ensures their victory. In their mind, they are heroes for a day.

"All the teams involved enjoyed the event and expressed appreciation to the base and the people involved in putting the tournament on," said Ms. Hubble-Zeneberg.

Before the teams met to battle, a team of volunteers arrived there at 5:30 a.m. each day to make the grounds "war ready."

"The programs on base would not exist with out volunteers, Mr. Hurt added. "We have staff members who plan and oversee the events, but when it comes down to it, the volunteers are the ones making things happen," he said.

Volunteers work everyday, but when it comes to setting up the tournaments they wake up and arrive at field at 5:30 a.m. to have the field set up and ready to go in just over an hour.

For information on paintball open play dates, tournaments or volunteer opportunities, call OAP at 828-6288.