Operation Crimson Dunes II (2003-08-28)
Operation Crimson Dunes II - Middle Eastern Conflict
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Lugging the large and heavy trophy home in my backpack with the upper portion jutting out for all passer-bys to see, I was inundated with questions like "What' d you win?", or excited exclamations like "Ooh a trophy!" Not that the shiny plastic dancing shoes molded atop the trophy gave away too much about what the trophy was for, but US customs and airport police officers all seemed interested enough to approach me with similar questions. At first, I was honest enough to reply "Belly dancing contest" but that soon gave way to "Dancing contest", and finally to "I"m carrying it for a friend". Embarrassing as it was - yet the trophy was symbolic of the great spirit and good sportsmanship that essentially made Operation Crimson Dunes II such an enjoyable airsoft event! More on the belly dancing later!
Held in the hot rolling desert of Aqua Dulce in Los Angeles, California, the operation was hosted at a movie ranch - at exactly the same location as Operation Iron Angel in 2001 (see trip report from that Operation in our News section.) Many movies have been filmed at this site, and you can even see the fuselage of a plane used to film hostage movies. Numerous military vehicles and tanks could also be seen within the fences of the ranch's props inventory. Organized by Dave Dollarhide and his esteemed team from Combat Enterprises, the operation was spread out over 3 days from August 15th - 17th. Crimson Dunes II was comprised of 3 scenarios - two on Saturday and one on Sunday morning. Two teams - USFOR (represented by the US flag and desert camouflage) and OPFOR (represented by the Russian flag and woodland camouflage) - were pitted against each other for the scenarios, with clearly defined squadrons and platoons led by a team of commanders and lieutenants - totaling over 120 people excluding staff and volunteers. The site was comfortably large (see map) with a large staging area for campers, and a very large skirmish area that could be maneuvered by foot or by military vehicles. An abundance of hills and foliage provided sufficient coverage for some interesting battles though strong winds for much of Saturday reduced small arms range. Heavy artillery, such as mortars, was fortunately not affected though.
The campgrounds opened at 10am on Friday August 15th with registration opening from 12 noon through 9pm. Registrants all received a free T-shirt and very professionally prepared mission documents. A large number of players chose to camp and stay at the event site for much of the 3 days - pitching up a wide variety of tents and canopies to sleep under the stars. Some players even arrived in Recreational Vehicles that provided a comfortable home for the 2 nights. By Saturday morning, the value of good shelter became painfully clear as temperatures reached a scorching 105 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees celcius) and players were downing water like no tomorrow. Representing RedWolf Airsoft, I myself arrived Saturday morning after a long flight from Hong Kong and was warmly received by my old friends at TAG with a cold drink and warm handshakes all round. As usual, TAG had pitched an extravagant tent with an ample supply of super cold drinks and good food to last the entire event (see photo). An army of comfortable armchairs also meant that there were more than enough reasons to curl up and fall asleep under the intense summer heat!
Gearing up for the first scenario briefing, members of USFOR and OPFOR lined up for a quick speech by Dave Dollarhide to kick off the event. Scanning the players, I saw a lot of gamers fully decked out in rugged combat gear, while some snipers had gone to great lengths in camouflaging themselves in ghillie suits (or as most would call just "one big hunk of walking shrub and grass with a rifle sticking out"). Given that dummy grenades were allowed (killing off players within a 10 foot radius at point of impact), a team of players had painstakingly constructed some great looking flash-bangs and grenades out of wood with bright orange trailers for easy retrieval. One of the players had about 10 of these jutting out his vest as he attentively took in the scenario briefing. Mind you this was not an all-male event and several ladies had dressed up in full gear to deck it out with the lads - one of the ladies had flown in from the UK with her team - role playing an SAS team.
Dave gave some quick words on logistics and mission objectives, and we were off onto the field to engage in our first battle. I was lucky enough to secure a seat in a converted Chevrolet Suburban-converted military vehicle dubbed the "LUCV", owned and operated by Brett O'Connell (of TAG). Sporting a 6-liter diesel engine and massive wheels, we clawed through the rough terrain and headed down to the playing area for insertion. At one point during the Op,we went down a 40-degree hillside in full 4 wheel drive mode - a thrilling experience for all on board! Signaled by the loud bangs of pyrotechnics, the game was off to a start as we (I played on the OPFOR side) spread out and took cover. Several M60 gunners took strategic positions on the hills overlooking the road which USFOR promised to be coming through in the inevitable invasion of the OPFOR base. I took my position along with several TAG team members in the shade away from the 105-degree heat and waited.
Thirty minutes into the game and the silence was broken by screams of "fire". Some of the fireworks had landed into the super dry grass and within 30 seconds, a fire had spread to about the size of a dining table. Players from all over converged on the scene and frantically stomped it out, emptying their water supply onto the patch. Within another few seconds, we had successfully extinguished the flames and all were thankful that the enjoyable day of gaming did not turn into a disaster (had the fire spread uncontrollably, it would have engulfed us all very quickly within the dry windy gorges).
A lot of creative ideas were included in the game to add more variety rather than just point and shoot. Some notably impressive innovations included the idea of a helicopter, which was represented by a player holding a thick orange/yellow rope. Any number of players could hang onto the rope and be transported all over the field invincibly until landed and inserted. Once landed, players had 10 seconds to scatter and take cover before being fired at by enemy troops. Helicopters were used numerous times during the first scenario, and it added much more excitement to the game play since enemy forces could be inserted behind enemy lines for instant heated battles (versus standoffs at the front lines that leaves everyone yawning).
Another innovative idea was the use of mortars, which played a central role in the second scenario on Saturday afternoon. Scattered over a much smaller playing area , both USFOR and OPFOR were given one mortar base, with a third positioned exactly between the two opposing bases and up for grabs immediately after game kick-off. Mortars were large catapult contraptions constructed from PVC piping and a large bungee cord with a cloth pouch. Each team was given a bucket of water balloons that could be catapulted into enemy territory, killing any player within 10 feet of impact. Angled and powered correctly, we were able to nail targets from within 10 meters all the way out to 150+ meters with decent accuracy. Firing balloons at the upper end of that range required lots of weight to pull the catapult back - during Scenario 2, I worked together with another OPFOR member in pulling it back sufficiently from the OPFOR base to launch a balloon dead onto the mid-way base for a full 150 meter carry, eliminating USFOR personnel and facilitating the swift takeover of that base (raise the Soviet flag!). With the game limit at 400fps for all airsoft guns, this was beyond the range of any of our weapons - once again showing how these innovative non-airsoft ideas added to the fun!
While mortars were definitely useful for taking out infantry, they were absolutely critical for taking out armored vehicles, which were invincible to airsoft fire. These vehicles came in the form of jeeps and the LUCV carrying one person with an AEG and who could kill anyone. Whenever we saw a vehicle crawling down the hills and towards us, we typically retreated to beyond its range or ducked into a bush out of the line of fire. Vehicles were smartly used in some scenarios to keep the odds even.
Medics were on hand to heal the wounded and if you were hit, you could be healed by medics who wrapped bandages around your arm. As for real injuries, we were unfortunate enough to see just a couple minor ones as players tripped and twisted ankles - but luckily nothing major. Many players were in cheerful enough spirits to act out a hit with very extravagant displays of pain and agony as they fell to the ground - which definitely added to the realism. Not able to stay through the third scenario on Sunday, I wrapped up my day by hopping onto the LUCV and heading back for camp and grabbing a cold one. The heat finally got to me, and no medic but a tall glass of iced tea could heal!
As night crept in on us, a lot of people pitched in to set up for that evening' s entertainment. With a powerful generator running, we had enough electricity to power a DVD player and an overhead projector to create a movie screen the length of a truck! Event sponsors organized a fantastic barbeque and evening entertainment that was put on for the group at large. I have TAG, Daisy and Jack of The Q Project to thank for my excellent dinner! There was no short supply of good food, good music, and even movies to go around! The highlight of Saturday evening was an extravagant belly dancing show put on by five charming ladies dancing to swords and bells and great music. Two lucky chaps got to role-play rich oil sultans smoking a water pipe while watching the show (kudos to their well grown beards!) At the end, several of us from the audience were "lucky" enough to participate in a dancing contest - and hence my belly dancing trophy which I got to lug all the way to Hong Kong - and which now proudly stands in the RedWolf office!
Overall I really enjoyed the event and caught a lot of fire-fight action with my RedWolf Custom AK PileBunker. After the operation, I donated this very gun to the event raffle, and lucky winner Zac Keehan (see picture) took it home. Congratulations Zac and thanks to all the folks at Combat Enterprises who made this an awesome event!