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Leading the Charge . . . Or Not

Fun and Games
From left, Sean Blaney, David Nemyier, Joseph Climek and Darryl Gangloff were known as team Hawaii 5-0 at Operation Bad Blood in May 2012. Photo submitted

Darryl Gangloff seems perfectly grown up during his weekday job as associate editor at The Lakeville Journal. But come the weekend . . .

Ah, spring. That wonderful time of year when you can finally open the windows, get some cleaning done, enjoy some gardening and partake in a tag sale or two.

Or, if you’re like me, you can crawl through the mud with hundreds of people to overtake a massive castle using only a paintball gun.

Perhaps you’d like to pick up an Airsoft gun and trek through the woods with your teammates, competing with other factions over medical supplies.

Let me back up a bit. Paintball and Airsoft events feature players shooting at each other, just like you may have done as a kid with Nerf guns or laser tag. The only difference is the ammunition. Paintball guns use — you guessed it — balls of paint, while Airsoft guns use tiny plastic pellets.

From my experience, paintball is incredibly messy and can quickly become an expensive endeavor (balls o’ paint ain’t cheap), although it’s much easier to tell when you’ve hit your target. Airsoft, on the other hand, requires little cleanup, and those pellets are generally inexpensive.

Of course, the weapons can drastically vary in price (we’re talking hundreds of dollars), and there are all sorts of accessories to collect, such as safety masks and tactical gear.

But you can pour as much or as little money into these hobbies as you’d like and still have a good time. You can also often rent the equipment at an event, which might make the most monetary sense if you don’t plan on playing often.

I’m no paintball/Airsoft expert by any means, but I’ve enjoyed the handful of events I’ve participated in with my friends Joseph Climek and Sean Blaney. They’re incredibly active guys: they play more hockey than I would have thought was humanly possible, but they’re always willing to wait for me as I stumble through the woods.

My first major foray into paintball was Castle Conquest, an absolutely huge event at EMR Paintball Park in New Milford, Pa., in September 2009 (followed by a repeat visit in April 2010). They have a three-story wooden castle called Castle AAARRGH! (which might be the best castle name ever), and armies of players needed to either attack or defend it.

Nothing gets your blood pumping quite like kneeling on a castle wall while what seems like hundreds of paintballs whiz over your head every second.

Male and female players of all ages participated, including my wife, and I was happy to see that the older players kept an eye on the younger ones. Considering the ridiculously high number of participants, most people followed the rules of good sportsmanship.

My main Airsoft excursion was the 300-player Operation Bad Blood at Paintball Sports Inc. in Plattekill, NY, in May 2012. The backstory of the game involves six factions looking for fresh virus samples following an Ebola outbreak. We were part of the Tribal Militia group. No, I’m not making any of this up.

What struck me at this event was the different play styles of the teams. Some utilized military tactical techniques, while others were a bit more goofy. We were in the latter. We named our four-member team — comprised of me, Joe, Sean and David Nemyier — Hawaii 5-0 and wore matching purple and blue Hawaiian shirts. As you can imagine, matching purple and blue Hawaiian shirts don’t act as effective camouflage among trees, but we made quite a name for ourselves by the end of the day.

If you’ve never participated in one of these events before, I know what you’re thinking: This all sounds very silly. Why would grown men run around a field, shooting toy guns at each other? Honestly, it’s just fun. It gets you outside, gives you some exercise, builds your communication skills and — probably the most important reason — allows you to act like a kid for a day.

Hawaii 5-0 will return to Operation Bad Blood in Plattekill on Saturday, May 18. We’re currently deciding on what color Hawaiian shirts to wear.