MARINE CORPS AIR STATION MIRAMAR, Callif. --
Marines and sailors from Marine Corps Air Station Miramar who wanted to train for the realism and pressures of combat had the opportunity to test themselves during the Warrior Challenge recently.
The participants armed themselves with a variety of airsoft weapons that resemble the real M16-A2 service rifles, AK-47s, M4 carbines, and sniper rifles.
Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron introduced airsoft weapons to the Warrior Challenge in June 2008 as a solution to using paintball or firing blanks, said Master Sgt. Gregory A. Teeuwen of air traffic control, who helps coordinate the quarterly event.
Paintball guns leave paint all over the buildings and ruin uniforms. The limited range of a paintball gun doesn’t add to the realism of the scenario. Firing blanks requires higher security and more qualifications for range safety officers, and means higher weapons maintenance. Participants also can’t tell if they are hit or if they hit anything.
Security is not an issue with airsoft weapons and they are also more cost effective. Although they don’t have the range or strength of real rifles, airsoft rifles are made to be as realistic as possible, even having the same weight as their live counterparts.
A seven-pound airsoft rifle will feel like the real seven-pound rifle, explained Teeuwen.
They are made of plastic and metal, but don’t have the inner workings of the real thing. The airsoft weapons don’t use gunpowder, and are electrically fired and battery operated. There is a motor inside that fires the 6mm biodegradable BB, which breaks down when exposed to the sun. The BB makes it easier for cleaning because it only requires sweeping out the buildings.
“It’s about as realistic as it gets without an actual lethal weapon,” said Cpl. Beau Navarre, an armorer for H & HS. “It’s my third time out here and I think it’s something that should increase to once every month. It’s good training all around and allows young Marines to take leadership roles.”
The challenge puts Marines in possible scenarios they might face while deployed. The first scenario placed two teams of Marines against each other to see which team would be left standing.
The scenarios progressively became harder with stronger objectives. The final scenario entailed the two teams using maps to locate a building in the town that contained important intelligence for each team.
The progress of the Marines’ teamwork can be seen from beginning to end. There’s a lot of running around, but by the end they are working together and communicating between groups, said Teeuwen.
Overall, the training experience was believable and more involved with the airsoft weapons, explained Lance Cpl. Kristopher D. Hayden, an administrative clerk with the Installation Personnel Administration Center.
“The training was informative, because we don’t do this everyday,” said Hayden. “Everything that the players learned was about leadership and teamwork.”