'Operation Sledgehammer: The Fight for Plezrin'

The year is 1999. The Cold War has ended and Yugoslavia is a mere shadow of what it once was, the Government in power are unable to control their constituent provinces, making the puzzle that is the Balkans even more complicated. Slobodan Milosevic, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia’s new President is a known Serbian-nationalist and is regarded by many as the most dangerous leader in Europe. He has roused the Yugoslavian people to act against the Albanians who live in Serbia and Kosovo leading to nearly 1 million refugees and appalling war crimes committed on both sides. Not satisfied with cleaning house in Serbia, he now turns his gaze on Kosovo. After months of conflict with help from outside influences such as the Kosovo Task Force (KFOR) NATO bloody battles have taken place in Leshtaz, resulting in the deaths of civilians and troops. After being brought to a checkmate by the combined presence of KLA and KFOR in Leshtaz the SAF (Serbian Armed Forces’) have set their sight on a smaller village to the South West, Plezrin, in order to secure a foothold of territory and to plan future operations.

The KLA are emboldened by their success at Leshtaz and have been forewarned about the attack. They know that the SAF are not far from their current location. They are confident that their success can be repeated in Plezrin, they have dug in and will sacrifice their lives for their cause. However, this time there is no KFOR armour or support. They must fight alone.

The SAF will not let the failure at Leshtaz stand. They are determined to smash the KLA and totally annihilate any opposition in the area as a warning that they are not to be trifled with. Anything that isn’t SAF is a target and they are ready to send a message to the world as to how to deal with rebels. On the last weekend of October I was invited by the team at Warzone Battle Simulation to attend the second Operation in their MilSim series – Operation Sledgehammer: The Fight for Plezrin which was held at Sennybridge FIBUA Village. Sennybridge FIBUA Village is a Ministry of Defence Training Area close to the village of Sennybridge in Powys, Wales – it’s the 3rd largest M.O.D Training Area in the UK and covers around 12 miles. Before the Op, Warzone painstakingly put together a 12 page document for all participants to read before attending the event – it included directions, game rules etc! This Op was by far the longest drive I’ve undertook to a site – it was only 150 miles but took me around 3.5 hours from my home in the East Midlands due to the route through Brecon, I know a few participants had issues finding the site when speaking to them after the event but I entered the longitude and latitude coordinates Warzone had supplied in the SOP into my Satnav and it took me straight to the site – I took the roads through the Brecon mountains but it is easily accessible through the A40. The team at Warzone did mark the path to Sennybridge camp with some markers and signs however as most people were arriving after sunset, it wasn’t the easiest to locate.

Warzone Battle Simulation is headed by 3 avid MilSimmers – David Pullen, Kevin Field and Mark Owen who also doubled up as the force leaders over the weekend. I personally feel like the staff at the event really played a part in how much I enjoyed the weekend – they were friendly, helpful and encouraging of their troops, but delivered tough love and harsh reality when we needed it. Although I didn’t get to spend a lot of time with Dave, the KLA force leader, our SAF ICs Mark and Kev made me feel like a valued member of the squad, were easy to chat to and have a laugh with. They ran a tight ship and kept us focused during the Op.

The site itself is pretty impressive, I was told before I arrived to imagine that someone had given me a budget to build a 1940’s soviet village but only gave you enough to buy bricks and concrete, and that was Sennybridge. It is a camp that comprises of 26 buildings and a Church (which is out of bounds to everyone) with a network of roads and surrounded by a wooded area and plenty of fields. The village even has buildings that are connected by subterranean tunnels – which were pretty cool. After I arrived at Senny, I took a stroll to meet and greet and get stuck in helping the team set up whilst we discussed the upcoming weekend. HQ was set up in the large building overlooking the town square and it contained the base for the teams operations, an out of game top floor (for those who drove to the site to get a good nights kip) and the store. The store had everything you could need for the weekend – beebs, RIFS, pyro including flares and various kit bits and bobs! One thing I was impressed with regarding the weekend was the booking in and admin system the team had in place – booking was made online via the Warzone website and a deposit of £35 was paid with the remainder to be paid on the day. The total price for the weekend was £85, which I feel for a two day event was extremely reasonable. On arrival at the site, you entered HQ, were made to watch a safety brief video and only when that was completed could you sign yourself in - upon signing in you received a site map and a tourniquet.

My squad – Wolf 1 of the Serbian Armed Forces set up camp around 8pm in the top floor of 20, with our battle brothers the Delta Renegades taking up residence in the floor below and the rest of our side spread out within a couple of surrounding buildings. Briefing for the start of the weekend took place at 0200 hours in the barn, our mission was simple, we had 34 hours to drive the KLA out of Plezrin, and if possible capture their High Value Targets. With the briefing out of the way we were loaded into our ‘Helo drop’ vans and transported to our location. Our SAF force leader organised our squads and we walked in formation cloaked in the darkness along the road in the cold morning air. We made our way to the village of Plezrin to initiate our attack, the KLA had set themselves up in buildings around the village and it was our job to push them out. As we approached the buildings, we could hear folk music being played and drums which emboldened us. Our troops flooded the west side of the village and started our assault on the buildings, we took ground quickly with our small fireteams storming buildings and our LMG support laying down suppressing fire as we took their ground from underneath them, we were met with fierce resistance from the KLA forces and the fight continued during the early hours and through first light. There was the sound of sporadic gunfire throughout the night and we managed to hold the ground that we had took from the KLA. My squad, returned to our camp around 7am to refuel, get some kip and mag up ready for round two.

One thing I’ve never truly experienced is living without creature comforts so the living aspect of MilSim was tough but I enjoyed the challenge. No running water, no heating and sleeping in a sleeping bag on a roll mat on concrete was definitely an experience for me. Eating rat packs and sleeping rough does nothing for the morale and in the cold October weather, any sleeping bag less than a 3 season would have left you feeling chilly and at risk, in hindsight I think a camp bed (and maybe a jet boiler) would have done wonders for my level of comfort! The Warzone SOP was really detailed and gave all participants advice on how to make the living aspect a little more comfortable which I heeded and more, so I was (thankfully) a little over prepared! I’m not particularly outdoorsy and camping isn’t my forte so their information definitely helped me last the event.

After a few hours kip and some food, all Wolf sections were ordered to retake as many buildings in the town that we could and that we did, SAF flooded into the town with a new found drive and cleared a path into the heart of KLA territory. Whilst our SAF brothers continued the fight in the town, Wolf 1 decided to attack them from the west, for this we had to covertly move through the tree line into their territory and assault a strong hold in the centre of their territory – building 8. Our team made it to the building practically undetected and attacked it fiercely, being met with strong resistance from the KLA. During the assault on building 8, I was unable to pull myself in through a window which left me vulnerable to crossfire and I was slotted by their designated machine gunner and this led to my capture. I had a few narrow escapes with players attempting to capture me throughout the op but this time they had well and truly caught me. I was dragged into a wet, cold basement, had a black cloth placed over my head and forced into a stress position whilst their footmen attempted to intimidate me by executing some of my team mates around me. I was searched and all my weapons were taken from me. After what seemed like hours, I was lead to a room upstairs, placed against a wall and had my feet kicked apart with my fingertips on the wall – the cloth was removed from my head and I was confronted by the leader of the KLA. I was interrogated and searched, with them confirming my identity by the tattoo on my forearm. Upon their search they discovered the intel I was carrying. After the KLA had taken all they needed from me, I was executed with a single shot to the head. Getting captured/interrogated was a completely new experience for me which was equally terrifying but exciting at the same time!

The rest of Saturday passed in a blur of gunfire, smoke, pyro and mortar rounds. Missions to steal warheads and RPGs from their grasp and assaults on enemy territory. We fought through the day until 7pm when exhaustion claimed us and we hit the hay whilst taking it in turn to stag, the night was cold and quiet with only the sound of gunfire sounding through the valley sporadically. After a decent night’s sleep and a good breakfast, our morale was boosted significantly and we were renewed in our mission so on Sunday morning we decided to give them hell. All of the Wolf sections were assembled in the lower floor of building 20 and given our orders – to assault their territory from the west and push them out through the eastern road. A 0530 hours we made our way along the road adjacent to the village ready to make our push into Plezrin, with only 6 hours left to complete our objective we lay down our covering smoke and started to assault the KLA stronghold that was their medic building. We steamrolled through the village taking building after building with ease. Within 4 hours we had pushed behind the church, we fought backwards and forwards with the KLA until endex at 11am. The battle was drawn and the war is still raging.

Overall, I had an amazing experience at Operation Sledgehammer, from the gameplay to the living aspect of the event, I really enjoyed every second of it and would have been happy to continue past endex buzzing on my MilSim high. The story the Warzone team had created was fully immersive and even included role-players with props acting as villagers walking the streets and going about their daily lives in the pub and barn. There are very few criticisms that I have of the Warzone Battle Simulation Operation Sledgehammer and they are as follows: although we had overall objectives I would have liked more ‘missions’ and orders during the Op – we were left to our own devices a lot and it did have a skirmish feel at times, vehicles would have been a nice touch and would’ve added an extra element to game play. There were a couple of issues that cropped up that weren’t the Warzone teams fault but did affect the event - due to an issue with the M.O.D, the top floors of the buildings we were sleeping in were not in play so buildings could never really be ‘taken’ and some participants (despite advice from the organisers) failed to look after themselves during the event and tempers flared which led to some leaving during the weekend and caused a ceasefire on Saturday afternoon – for those of us who did take care of ourselves, the ceasefire was an annoyance. The praises however far outweigh the criticisms, I felt the event was good value for money and a character building experience – I know I personally took a lot from it. I got to experience a lot of new experiences such as using flares, being interrogated, the whole living aspect of MilSim. For anyone looking to get into MilSim, Warzone Battle Simulation events are definitely where to start!

Hardwick, K. (2016). Operation Sledgehammer: The Fight For Plezrin. Airsoft Action. 57 (January), 30-33.

Photos thanks to John Wright!

No comments

Back to Top