Susanville Airsoft Squad brings locals together for a fun and creative recreational activity
Members of the Susanville Airsoft Squad pose together before playing a round of team death match at Susanville Ranch Park Saturday, June 29. The squad has about 70 members who meet and organize airsoft events each weekend. Photo by Maddie Musante
July 9 — You crawl through the brush, trying to stay low because your camouflage clothing and face paint can only hide so much. You must blend in, silent and agile, in order to get the upper hand on your opponent. You spy a young boy a few yards away. The sun reflects off his glasses at just the right angle to give him away. He’s toast and he doesn’t even know it. You raise your gun, silent and steady, finger balanced gently on the trigger. You take a deep breath, but before you can shoot, a zombie appears out of nowhere and attacks. You’ve been bitten and now must resign yourself to your fate — heading to the designated area to respawn as a member of the living dead, forced to terrorize those who were once your comrades.
Does this sound like your idea of a fun Saturday evening? The Susanville Airsoft Squad creates and plays out scenarios like this one and many more every weekend at Susanville Ranch Park.
The group, which now has about 70 members, was founded in 2009 by Kenny Lee, Dustin Matthews, Charles Marland and Fawn Wallace and is open to airsoft enthusiasts of all ages. They meet each weekend at Susanville Ranch Park to battle it out with the latest and greatest technology in airsoft guns.
Before the games began Saturday, June 29, members of the squad gathered at a dilapidated and badly graffitied cement structure near the parking lot at Susanville Ranch Park and prepared for battle. Participants dress in camouflaged clothing to better hide from their opponents, heavy boots or protective shoes so they can trek through the wild terrain and sunglasses or goggles to protect their eyes from oncoming BBs. Before picking teams, members of the group gathered together and discussed weapons and tactics. Older members of the group helped younger ones troubleshoot issues with their guns and gave them advice. Although their camouflage clothing and massive array of airsoft weapons give them intimidating presence, the group is nothing but friendly, welcoming and kind.
The 100-degree weather didn’t deter the squad who said they’ve been out in worse conditions. Susanville Airsoft Squad plays year-round, sun or snow, except when it’s raining. In the winter months they hold matches on Sunday mornings.
Although the group has about 70 members, only about 20 to 50 show up for games each weekend due to work schedules and other commitments. “Anybody can play,” said Marland, “I guess it’s really about your pain tolerance … sometimes it hurts. It’ll sting, like a bee sting.” However, as the team death match began, no one on the field seemed the least bit concerned with the sting of the BBs. The youngest player has been 12 years old.
The premise behind the games is that opponents shoot one another in simulated games. Once a player has been shot he or she must call themselves out and retreat to a designated area away from the battle.
The squad plays several different games and tries to switch it up each weekend. Team death match is a shorter game where the group divides into two teams and battles it out until there is no one left standing.
“Today we’re playing an ambush mission. So, one team has to get from point A to point B and the other team has to ambush them,” Marland said before the start of Saturday’s games.
The group also plays capture the flag and zombies. The zombie game begins like team death match, but when three people get out and meet at the designated area, they respawn as a zombie team and attack everyone on the field. The game goes on until there is only one ‘human’ left standing.
The games begin at 5 p.m. on Saturday and usually go on until about 9:30.
According to Marland, the squad is working on forming a group to travel to Sacramento and play with an ex-military airsoft team.
“Airsoft’s bigger worldwide than paintball is. They actually have a 1,000-man game down in Southern California. They make tanks and everything,” Marland said.
The group communicates mainly via Facebook and is always welcoming new members. For more information on Susanville Airsoft Squad, visit facebook.com/groups/Susanvilleairsoftsquad/?fref=ts.