It’s not everyday that a bunch of game journos get to get tips on sniping, stalking, and how best to clear a room from some of Australia’s most elite armed forces members. Not everyday, but it did happen last Friday, when EA Australia hosted a very special ‘training day’ for ten very lucky - and, at the end of the day, very bruised - local writers.
The day started innocently enough; we’d been told it was a special day, with two ex-special forces soldiers, but not a bootcamp - which, really, was bit of a porkie in some ways. So all of us gathered at Man of War steps, near the Opera House, for a boat pickup. Aside from that, none of us had a clue what we were in for, other than that we’d been told to dress comfortably, in dark or camo gear.
Which I certainly took as a hint - I pretty much showed up in the gear I normally paintball in: battered old Docs, auscam fatigue trousers, and a dark shirt. Oh, and my trusty, paint-splattered N7 cap.
The day started with a burst of speed out onto the harbour, courtesy of one of the fast boat operaters that normally takes tourists out onto the water for some seaborne action; it also just happened to be in what’s known in the military as a Tactical Response Boat, one of those part inflatable, part rigid, all speed boats that special forces do rapid landings in. We zipped about the harbour and outside the heads, then zoomed back in for an actual beach landing near Manly. We even had to hop out of the boat and into the surf - much to the amusement of dedicated sunbathers!
Waiting for us on the beach was one hell of a reception, in the shape of Dog, a veteran of 3RAR - our own parachute regiment - and a special forces close quarter battle (CQB) specialist. To call him imposing is putting it lightly; kitted out in webbing complete with mags and grenades, and a half-mask covering his face, he was a hell of sight. He lined us up, told us he wasn’t going to take any shit, and informed us we could call him Sir.
And if that wasn’t enough to hint that the day was going to be interesting, the demilitarised APC he escorted us into, for the drive to our training ground, certainly was!
It’s quite interesting to get to ride in something like the real thing. It’s cramped, hot, and very enclosed, with very little visibility. I was right next to the gunner’s turret well, and could just see the screen for one of the exterior cameras, showing suburban streets and some rather surprised locals, while in front of us was a jeep with Dog and some local EA staff.
When we got to destination, things got even more serious. There’s a common training technique used in most militaries, whereby if one of the unit is slow to do something, the rest of the unit must assume some challenging position, or do something like endless push-ups, while they catch-up; you’ve likely seen it in films, and that’s what greeted us when Dog discovered one us still didn’t have his shoes on after walking ashore. So while Ben (thanks, mate) got his boots on, we all assumed push-up position.
I won’t lie - I was having a ball. But then, I also knew this was just one afternoon.
So once Ben’s shoes were on, we marched onto a parade ground, where a whole pile of equipment was facing us, as well as the second of our spec-ops teachers, Rofo, a recon sniper specialist, and similarly scary guy - especially with his Bullpup Barret 50. cal rifle. In fact, if you’ve seen the ‘meet Rofo' video for Warfighter, you’ve seen him already.
We were ordered to leave our own bags and kit on the ground, and to kit up: first webbing, which held a bush-knife, water, and air-horn (more on this later); then a pack, with more water and a full-size sledgehammer, just for yucks, and then shemagh scarf, and finally protective gloves and a patch bearing our ‘candidate number’. We had to buddy check each other’s gear, get it sitting tight, and then take a short jog around the parade ground to make sure everything was squared away.
I got to lead off, trying to not jog too slowly, but also not so fast that I stretched ahead of slower runners; I didn’t want to get caught out with more punishment positions for not sticking together!
With all our gear settled and tight, we formed up again, and got tasked to go and receive our weapons - real, actual rifles and submachineguns, a selection of M4 Carbines, HK assault rifles, and the odd MP5 Navy, which is what I ended up with. They were all safetied, and unloaded, but I think we were all a little stunned. None of us had expected to suddenly find ourselves actually armed.
And man, even the MP5 is a lot heavier than you expect. After another short jog, I really got to appreciate what it must take to have to really move about, all day, with a proper load-out and gear.
The next part of the training day was learning to first leopard crawl, then a monkey like crouch that lets you move low, slow, and steady with your weapon on target, and finally the classic tactical advance, body square on to your target, so the chestplate in your vest can catch rounds properly.
Through all this we only covered maybe 50 yards, crawling, crouching and walking, but if one of us fell behind, out came the push-up pose until we were all in a line again. With the gear and weapons, it was certainly tiring.
And one of us, who shall remain unnamed, called it quits there and then. A shame, really, because a couple of minutes later the cool stuff really began.