Thursday, July 7, 2011

Milsim Paintball Phonies, Part 1 - Rant Week

I've realized there seems to be this general tendency by some in the Milsim-oriented Paintball world to bend the truth and exaggerate their credentials, in order to gain some sort of "tactical street cred" and gain authority in the Milsim community. Why do they feel the need to do this?

As an (anonymous) example, a Milsim Paintball team in Eastern Canada states on their web site that their team is composed of "members of Tactical Teams (SWAT), law enforcement, and security professionals". Well, after speaking with some of their members in person and checking with other sources, it turns out that the REAL story is this: The "SWAT" member is actually a member of the emergency team at a medium security prison, who storms a cell in a padded suit and shield when needed (which is almost never, being that it's med-sec). There are no firearms, hostage rescue, or dynamic entry/CQB involved. This is also not his full-time job, so when someone isn't wigging out in their cell, he watches the inmates like every other guard. A teammate of his in "law enforcement" is actually a "Municipal By-Law Enforcement Officer", the equivalent of a meter maid handing out tags for parking, catching people not picking up their dog's doodoo, and making sure everyone's out of the parks after 11pm. Lastly, I found out that a highly-ranked member of their team, a "security professional" of course, is a night watchman at a warehouse.

I don't mean to knock any of these occupations, and I'm glad there's hard-working people keeping our prisons under control, making sure the laws are respected, and keeping an eye on merchandise. What I do have a problem with is someone feeling a need to exaggerate their occupations, to make it sound like they rappel through skylights in a shower of broken glass to rescue hostages as their day job.

There are no firearms-related or other skills involved in any of the above trades that would translate to better Paintball skills or tactics, but by blurring the definitions these people can lead others to believe that they're tactical gods, and thereby gain some sort of twisted respect in Milsim Paintball.

That these guys are in the "security industry" is really not surprising, as you often see this phenomenon at work in security too. I spent over 8 years dispatching for a police agency as a full-time job, while doing security gigs on the side. I definitely met my fair share of downright WONKY "tough guy" characters during my time in that field - some really not so different from movie portrayals.

One was a Loss Prevention Officer (store detective) who claimed to be a retired RCMP officer who'd been on the Hostage Rescue Team, and protected the Prime Minister of Canada as part of his personal bodyguard. Something just didn't add up, so I asked staff at the store what the deal with the guy was. The truth was that this gentleman had been a school crossing guard for the city of Westmount, Quebec, and got laid off when the smaller municipalities on the island of Montreal joined together to make a megacity in the 70s. The closest the guy had ever come to being a cop was that the crossing guard program had been administered by the Westmount Police, which ceased to exist when the city amalgamated.

On another occasion, I met a strange security guard for a large Canadian railway who claimed to have been a commando in the Canadian Airbourne Regiment prior to coming to work for the company. He claimed that he'd done UN peacekeeping tours in several hotspots, including in the Sinai. This man once told me a story about a tense situation he'd encountered in the Gaza Strip on that tour (which isn't even politically possible, as the UN never had peacekeeping troops in Gaza): According to his account, which seemed identical to a scene from the Charlie Sheen movie Navy Seals, a Palestinian terrorist grabbed a woman in front of him on patrol and held a knife to her throat. The terrorist told him to drop his weapon or he'd kill her, and our hero said "Not gonna happen" and shot the terrorist directly between the eyes. Of course this sounded like something straight out of an action movie - complete with a Bruce Willis-like one-liner - so I HAD to know more!

The secret to tripping someone up when you know they're full of shit is to ask lots of questions, because sooner or later they slip and contradict themselves, or have to make shit up. So I asked the guy to tell me what the Gaza Strip was like, and he replied "Oh it's about 2km wide and about 8km long". This IDIOT (who had of course never been deployed to the Middle East, and had actually only been in the Reserves back in the 70s) actually believed that the Gaza Strip was a little "strip", exactly measured with equal dimensions like a bikini wax!

BUT I'M NOT DONE! I had the pleasure of having a former money transport agent join our team at the police dispatch centre. He was extremely cocky, bragged to me that he knew "how to bleed a guy out in 10 seconds" with a knife (something some SWAT guy in the States taught him apparently), used to drag a giant police duty bag full of books to work at his dispatch job, and outright stated that his firearms training from his money transport days, combined with his time as a bar bouncer and a weekend instructor course in Pressure Point Control Tactics (PPCT) made him more experienced and better-trained than a police officer. One day, when two former police officers working at dispatch were swapping war stories about arrests gone bad and the fights that followed, he whipped his PPCT Instructor card out of his wallet and interrupted out of the blue to say "I'M AN INSTRUCTOR". Of course, this left both former cops a little puzzled.

So what do any of these security industry anecdotes have to do with Milsim Paintball players exaggerating their credentials? Everything! In both cases the people involved are bending the truth (or just plain snapping it in two), with a healthy dose of machismo to back it up, to raise their status in their particular subculture.

The people I described above think that in the subculture of the security industry, reputation is everything, and that you can't have or show any signs of weakness. In their eyes they didn't think people would respect them in that field if they knew the truth about their backgrounds as crossing guards, Reservists, etc. To this end they exaggerated their credentials, training, and abilities, and/or just plain made up lies to create a legend around them. Most people in security are normal, professional, and approachable, but you often come across individuals like them trying to exaggerate their "macho factor" as a shortcut to respect. They're the bane of security work, and the normal people trying to do the job generally don't like them. The less intelligent and easily-influenced may buy their crap for a while though and look up to them, and this reinforces and perpetuates the BS and posturing.

Likewise, Milsim Paintball is also a subculture, with a hierarchy, rewards, reputation, and status within the group. As the entire premise of the game is to simulate the equipment and missions of real-life operators, to "be like Mike" to borrow an old NBA slogan, naturally a real-life operator involved in such a group would automatically command a lot of respect, and instantly gain high status in the subculture with very little effort. Could you imagine if a real life Delta Force operator started his own Milsim Paintball team? Everyone in Milsim would want to get in on that show, to be on a team "led by a real Delta Force operator!" He would be an instant superstar in the Milsim Paintball subculture overnight, while someone like a prison guard, by-law officer, or warehouse watchman would just be considered at the same status level as your average Joe plumber or telemarketer in the game. Wanting this kind of instant "street cred", a Milsim Paintball player may be tempted to fudge the truth a bit (or outright lie) about their background. Some people in the game may even believe it for a while (especially given that there's a lot of younger, more naive people into this stuff), with the absence of proof to the contrary.

So be wary of anyone in the Milsim Paintball or Airsoft world claiming to be a real-life "operator" outside of the game. Most of the time it's not true anyway, because the people who do this stuff for REAL are probably the LEAST likely to ever come out and play Milsim Paintball, and probably wouldn't even want people knowing they're in that business.

In Part 2 of this Rant later this week, I'll go into more detail about this, and explain the reasoning behind this last bold statement. Stay tuned!

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