By Mr. James Brabenec (IMCOM)January 10, 2013
FORT SILL, Okla. -- 3, 2, 1 ... at a buzzer's sound five well-protected players sprint onto a playing field unleashing a hailstorm of paintballs intent to wipe out their adversary while evading incoming opponent volleys in a 5-minute period.
The first team to "color" its opponent's five players wins.
For Staff Sgt. Jeff Munoz, a 10-year paintball veteran, fast-paced competitive team paintball opened doors to friendships and tournaments with fellow enthusiasts from around the world. New to Fort Sill, Okla., he wants to establish and train a team here to play in world class paintball tournaments like he did while stationed in Korea.
That eight-man team, known as the Army All Stars, received Army support to return stateside and compete in two national events. Though they didn't win, the exposure boosted awareness of the Soldiers and their positive efforts to represent the Army.
"I believe the best thing the Army can do for Soldiers is find those who are doing good things and support them," said Munoz, a drummer with the 77th U.S. Army Band here.
Playing in a tournament arena about one-third the size of a football field, he said good paintball teams need quick thinking athletes to compete. Intelligent players can scan the playing field and the inflatible barriers interspersed throughout to root out opposing players, locate cover from which to shoot or dive to evade an enemy onslaught.
Each team fields five players with three others in reserve. The team that wins the best two-out-of-three games wins the match.
He said trained paintballers make the game much more fun because good teams attack and shoot as a unit. Individuals who hide may jeopardize the entire team.
"Having an untrained player is like having no one out there at all. Sure, they might survive not getting shot in the first 10 seconds, but quick elimination is usually better," he said.
That hider who ends up as the last player on a team draws a lot of interest from the other team.
"Getting run down up close by three to five players is never a good time," said Munoz.Though he's looking for male or female Soldiers, he will train anyone associated with Fort Sill on how to play correctly and proficiently.
"I'm looking for people who can run a 40-foot sprint really fast while shooting at someone. At the same time, they must keep both eyes open scanning the playing area for threats or targets," he said.
Most importantly, Munoz said, players must communicate with each other to be effective as a team. "Look right," "shoot left, now shoot right, dive!" are directions players may hear from teammates.
Levi Newman, a Soldier stationed at Fort Lee, Va., played paintball with Munoz in Korea and said he would gladly join his friend again for a tournament.
"Jeff is the kind of player who boosts everyone's confidence," said Newman. "He's especially good delivering a motivational speech just before we take the field."
Because tournament paintball plays in a confined space, it requires strict measures to ensure the safety of all participants. Although there's a lot of fast, heavy shooting, Munoz said paintball guns cannot fire more than 12.5 balls per second nor send a round out at faster than 300 feet per second. This is especially important because at times he might run past and dispatch an opponent from point-blank range. To diminish the impact of these pellets, players cover themselves head to toe in padded jerseys and pants with additional arm and knee pads. Finally, the face shield must meet specific safety requirements to provide optimal protection.
While this gear all comes with a price tag, thanks to his connections with other players, Munoz said he could help players get fully outfitted for a lot less than they might expect. Still, he doesn't want to compel Soldiers to go out and immediately spend that much to get started.
"I'd rather new players just learn to have fun. After that if they want to get more serious about it, I'll talk with them to see what they want to do. New players I've trained didn't need a lot to compete; their gear wasn't the best, but they did well and competed against great opponents," he said.
Though he doesn't play professionally, Munoz does have sponsors who help pay for the cost of some of his gear. He shoots a $1,200 gun and owns a backup model for the same amount.
"I own a lot of equipment, because I take it seriously and am committed to improving at this sport," he said.
Munoz believes in training people how to have more fun playing the game. Practices consist of a lot of speed conditioning, running and doing other things relative to how the team plays tournaments.
Often 20-second drills can help players overcome their opponent when faced with a 1- or 2-on-3 scenario, but sometimes wisdom arrives via the most direct route.
"Experience and learning what works best comes often from getting shot up yourself," he said.
To avoid looking like an artist's pallette, Munoz tries to stay relaxed. This state of mind improves his chances of winning immeasurably.
"With paint pounding the barrier in front of me, I start humming an American march song, such as "Stars and Stripes Forever." That helps keep me calm and focused on the directions from fellow players or the coach outside the playing area," he said.
Munoz believes his soldiering and paintball skills mesh well together as both require focus, discipline and physical fitness to excel. Both also advocate teamwork to meet a common goal as compared to dealing with a loose cannon answering to himself only.
"No one wants to work with or play paintball with a jerk Soldier, especially when that jerk has a gun in his hand," he said. "Paintball requires players who have the humility to listen and follow the instructions of others."
He said paintball season begins in March and runs through October at the national level, which consists of five major tournaments scattered about the United States. Last year he played two of these events including the Paintball Sports Promotions World Cup, the biggest five-man tournament in the world.
"Through that tournament we developed friendships with players from Europe, South America, the Middle East and Asia.
"I've received invitations and offers to help pay my expenses from a team in Kuwait and another in Malaysia if I'm ever over there."
Although he called paintball a young man's sport, the 31-year-old Soldier believes, given support from his wife, he will play for years to come. He knows men who continue to compete in a master's league into their 40s and 50s.
For more information, contact Munoz at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 254-291-3018.