Paintball: the closest thing to a real combat situation most civilians will ever experience. And a great place to find out you're not meant to be in the army.
I had my first paintball experience a couple months ago (yeah I know this post is way overdue). And after years of saying how much I wanted to go, imagining I'd be pretty good at it from playing many a stealthy game of Capture-the-Flag when I was little, yet somehow just never making the pieces fit together to actually go… I finally went paintballing. It did not go well.
Not to say it wasn't fun. It was extremely fun, and I'd go again in a second. It's just that, well, it turns out I'm pretty terrible at paintball.
Every guy, at some point in their lives, imagines what it would be like to be in a war. In the heat of combat, how would you feel? What would you do? Would you be a hero or cannon-fodder? For me, this debate always ended up boiling down to two specific questions:
- If I'm ever in a war, will I be courageous and move boldly into battle, or totally freeze up and sit there wide-eyed and horrified?
- If I'm ever in a war, how long will it take me to get shot?
After six hours of paintballing with brother Alex, friend Josh and a bunch of other folks, I discovered the answers to these two questions:
- I would move boldly
- About 5 seconds
I learned that if there's one thing I'm fairly good at in paintball, it's boldly running right into battle, trying to get the jump on people, stirring up the opponent's front line so that my team can get better position. I also discovered that if there's one thing I'm GREAT at in paintball... it's getting shot. My first few games of paintball went something like this.
GAME 1) One second into the game: I charge the enemy line. Five seconds into the game: I get shot in the face.
GAME 2) One second into the game: Improving, I run behind an obstacle first, then charge the enemy line. Ten seconds into the game: I get shot in the face.
GAME 3) One second into the game: Realizing my strategy flaw, I duck behind some cover, and wait for the enemy to charge OUR line. One minute into the game: They don't. Two minutes into the game: I get bored, and charge the enemy lines. Two minutes, ten seconds into the game: I get shot in the ass.
GAME 4) One second into the game: At the peak of my day's performance, I duck behind some obstacles, sneak around the end, and make it halfway back into enemy territory. One minute into the game: I spot an opponent looking the other direction, and successfully shoot him! One minute, ten seconds into the game: I am shot one million times by the rest of the opposing team, who has now gathered around me to use up the rest of their paintballs.
And so on.
On a bravery level, I was encouraged. Granted, flying paintballs are not exactly flying bullets, but the fact that I felt no panic under fire was, I believe, a good sign that I might at least avoid soiling myself and being labeled the biggest pussy on the real battlefield.
On a survival level, I was less encouraged. During our 20 games of paintball, I was killed 19 times, got shot in the face at least 5 times, and during a couple games was shot so many times that I couldn't even figure out which of my opponents and landed the first bullet. I did manage to kill a few people, but that didn't happen until our later games of small-court speedball, where everybody dies within five minutes.
And so, mom, if you're reading this - don't worry about your son wandering off and joining the army. And if this country somehow manages to get itself into a draft situation, you can look forward to receiving postcards from Canada. And not even for political reasons - heck, this is basic survival.