Wednesday, August 03, 2011

A blast of friendly fire

A Sunderland backyard was transformed into the set of a special operations video game as teams of boys, some of them dressed in camouflage clothing, maneuvered around barriers shooting at each other in the first Sunderland Airsoft Gun Tournament last Wednesday.

Marc Hood, 12, created invitations for the tournament on a computer and sent them to his friends at Windy Hill Middle School and to the Calvert County Sheriff’s Office, said Mark Hood, a U.S. Capitol Police canine officer.

About 20 boys signed up for the elimination tournament that had teams of three shooting Airsoft guns at each other. Hood gave a safety talk before the tournament, which he wants to make an annual event, and made sure all the boys wore facial shields with ear protection and understood that they were not allowed to shoot at someone within 20 feet of them.

“We try to stress safety,” he said.

“It’s almost like paintball,” Hood said, mentioning that they are air powered guns that shoot plastic BBs that “will sting” a bit when someone gets hit.

“It feels like someone’s tapping you,” said 13-year-old Jackson Drum of the pellets hitting.

Hood, who didn’t charge anything to participate and provided lunch for the boys, said, “I want the kids to have fun,” and have the event be a success for his son. Hood even corralled a friend to video tape the tournament and gave each boy a DVD.

“It was a lot of fun,” said Christopher Van Deventer, 13, who said he got upset when he got shot and had to lie down, but he understands it’s just a game. Cody McCarley, 13, said he likes the competition, and seeing the boys’ enthusiasm, it was obvious they were all having fun.

The playing field was down a path in the woods behind the Hoods’ home, and it had 6-foot tall hay bales, 55-gallon plastic barrels and pieces of plywood large enough for two people to hide behind scattered around the approximately 100-yard field. Michael Williams, 13, said, “I like how the stage was set,” mentioning that he liked all the barriers that were made to hide behind during the games because normally when he plays they use trees to hide behind.

“[Mark Hood] did a great job setting up,” said George Harting, whose son Daniel, 13, played.

“He’s been talking about this for months,” Harting said.

Members of the Calvert County Sheriff’s Office Special Operations Team, Cpl. Figueiras, Dfc. Cox, Dfc. Sloane and Dfc. Jones, along with a Calvert County Detention Center’s Ofc. Flynt, who was the on-site medic, all spent the afternoon being tournament judges, ensuring that the rules were followed, and, on occasion, giving the boys tactical instructions as they worked the field.

“You got two men down, you’ve gotta move, go, go,” yelled out Figueiras during the championship game as the boys were holed up behind a barrier. The deputies also made sure that the boys who were hit held their hands up signaling they were hit, and then laid down until a teammate placed a gold police sticker on their shirt, which indicated they were hit. They could then play again until they were hit a second time, and out of the game.

Prior to the tournament, the deputies checked each boy’s gun and made sure they were working properly. Some of the boys just had rifles, while others had both a rifle and a pistol, which was allowed in the tournament. The battery-operated rifles the boys used are considered automatic and carry about 300 rounds in the magazine, and cost anywhere from $100 to $300, said Ronnie Flynt, who knew a great deal about different types of Airsoft guns and said that some guns cost much more.

Playing in tournaments gets them outside away from TV and video games and teaches them about sportsmanship, following rules and winning and losing, Jones said. And when asked of what he thought about the boys’ special operation techniques of dodging behind the barriers and peeking around corners, he said, “They play a lot of video games.” Hood acknowledged that the boys do learn moves from playing the “Call of Duty: Black Ops” video game.

The championship game called for a two-game loss elimination, and the team of 13-year-olds of Cody McCarley, Jozeph Lunczynski and Kevin Clarry won two games in a row, winning the tournament and garnering small trophies. Although the tournament was over, all the boys still wanted to play, so they regrouped on teams and took turns throughout the afternoon.

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