The scene: the African city of Ati has fallen. After the remains of the Chadian Army withdrew from the immediate area, Azearian State Fighters entered the city, raising their flags over Government buildings and declaring the area an Azearian stronghold. SOTF Chad withdrew from the city last year which in turn prompted new attacks against the Chadian forces. Confirmation of the late former President, who was brutally murdered in the streets of Chad, had allied himself with AS has only undermined any International Relations with Chad.

Currently the Kanem Brotherhood is holding the position of interim government in N’Djamena, and they have also declared their allegiance with AS. The stability of Chad and central Africa has reached breaking point. AS and allied KOA forces have begun distribution of arms across the country and, more and more local militia and tribal groups have either allied with or officially joined AS meaning tensions are high and the area is highly volatile.

A small advisory training team comprised of International Special Forces from the US, UK Europe remains in N’Djamena and are continuing to work with the small number of Chadian Uniformed Police at the order of the UK government to help quell some of the unrest in the area but with the Azearian State, Knights of Azear and Kanem Brotherhood now focusing all their attention on N’Djamena, SOTF Chad has been diverted to reinforce the International Special Forces stationed in the city.

On the weekend of 13th-14th August 2016 I was invited by Stirling Airsoft to attend their latest operation, Operation Crucible at Caerwent FIBUA village in Monmouthshire, Wales to experience all three of the main factions within their themed games – ISAF, Civilian Population and my own team Chad Police. Let’s first talk a little bit about Stirling and what they do: Stirling Airsoft are one of the UK’s leading Airsoft events companies who bring together their varied backgrounds (including ex SF instructors) to bring Airsofters highly immersive large scale, scenario based 24 hour Airsoft events that challenge the participant both mentally and physically.

The site they picked for Op Crucible is a site that is rapidly becoming one of my favourite sites for MilSim Ops! MOD Caerwent is a large military site which was formerly used as a Royal Navy Propellant factory that was dedicated to the manufacturing of explosives and storage of ammunition from 1939 to 1993. Since its closure in 1993 it is used for a variety of activities from Airsoft to Field exercises and even car rallies. The site has an overall gated area of 7 miles that encompasses over 400 buildings and bunker structures but also the training areas own railway system. The terrain is varied and ranges from open grassy areas to berms, hills, wooded areas, a fully-fledged road system and of course the hundreds of buildings on site – because of its diverse landscape it opens the options for different playing styles from close quarters combat to long range engagements and sniping opportunities. The site is around a 2 and a half hour drive from my home in the Midlands and unlike other MOD sites such as Sennybridge FIBUA it is super easy to find – being just off the A48!

After we arrived we signed in at the gates – booking at Stirling is extremely easy and is done via the booking page on their website and with prices at £85 per person for the event it is one of the more affordable MilSim style ops, especially with the option to pay a £45 deposit and the rest on arrival.

As soon as we signed in we set up our FOB in one of the munitions storage buildings set deep within 3 hills, had some food and some well needed rest before the start of the weekend. Stirling Ops last for 24 hours none stop, no safe zones and no breaks so any rest you can get before the event is a plus!

In the morning we awoke bright and early, I donned my civvie clothes and left the Police fob with my first port of call being the civilian population. This element was completely new to me as playing a civilian within the story requires more role play than I have previously experienced. For my role I took on the part of a journalist for the local newspaper (The Chad Gazette) and was escorted around the city by MJ, the local civilian leader in the city to meet the local residents. The immersion is fantastic and it really feels like you are in this world. As I was walking around the city documenting the day to day life of Chadian locals, one thing became very clear – tensions were high between the two sides and unarmed civilians being shot on sight by ISAF forces only added to the tensions. Around every corner was unrest, ISAF and local residents going toe to toe as the soldiers prevented the residents from going about their daily lives and jobs. From this experience it was clear to see that the inhabitants were deeply unhappy with the ISAF occupation of their city. I spoke to a lot of the locals and the unrest mostly stemmed from the brutal murder of their beloved president. I left the side under the understanding that something big was happening, exited for what was to come in the next few hours.

For most of the Op I played with my own team – The Chad Police, the Police forces team has one objective during these Ops and that is to keep peace within the city and to quell any unrest/unlawfulness. Our duties started with patrolling the city and setting up road blocks to monitor what traffic was going in and out of the city and to check there was no contraband being smuggled in. As it became apparent to us that laws of the city were broken we started bringing in locals for questioning to get to the bottom of what was happening within the city.

One of the highlights of the weekend was the protest the civilians put on in memory of their late president, as we got word a large group were moving towards the ISAF camp we jumped into our vans and quads to provide support. We formed a protective barrier between the protesters and the ISAF soldiers,

From the berm that overlooked our FOB we watched as the ISAF camp got attacked on the hour, every hour of the night. From mortars, tag rounds, pyro and tracer rounds. The sky was alive with light and colour and the ground was aflutter with movement as the civilian militia moved in on the ISAF camp and gave them hell. ISAF as always put up a strong fight and the orders being screamed at the force could be heard through the site.

When light broke on the Sunday morning I donned my MultiCam gear and jumped on the quad to the ISAF fob at the heart of Caerwent. Their fob was a large munitions building surrounded by sanghars and hesco blocks, a fortress – easily defendable but vulnerable because of the sheer size and ostentatiousness of the building. As I entered the camp it was clear from the expressions on the teams faces that the night attacks had taken their toll on the force, however as soon as the order was given to mount the vehicles feet hit the ground running and the troops were on their assigned vehicles and moving out. I took a seat in the lead vehicle and watching the Saracen and Wimmick’s roll out with dust flying out from under every wheel was quite a sight, they were taking the fight to the heart of the civvie camp. When the order was given the troops dismounted the vehicles and started engaging the enemy forces, I disembarked and ran with a squad into the thick of it. One thing that really threw me off whilst running alongside the Stirling callsign was just how regimented the side is – there’s no running rogue and engaging whoever and causing chaos as I’m used to. You stick to your taskings. This means that the troops are a lot more organised and a force to be reckoned with. ISAF fought hard from all sides during the last few hours of the Op.

Overall, I had an amazing weekend at Operation Crucible, the immersion and roleplay at Stirling Ops is second to none. You really feel as if you’ve been dropped into another time/place.

 Hardwick, K. (2016). Operation Crucible: The Trifecta. Airsoft Action. 67 (Nov), 32-35.

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