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Army 4: Cadets go to war in furious mountainside paintball battle

April 3rd, 2011 Posted in Arts and Life

Editor’s note: Part IV in Natasha Bodily’s try-outs with USU’s Army ROTC. See Part I. See Part II. See Part III.

Story & Photos by Natasha Bodily

LOGAN—My stomach was curling in all sorts of painful knots. Wondering how quickly ulcers could form, my hypochondria decided I might bleed to death from the inside.

They are paintballs, not bullets. They are paintballs, not bullets, I repetitively thought in my state of semi-conscious anxiety.

USU’s Army ROTC holds paintball labs as a form of combat strategizing. I had held a gun only at one other time in my life, during a memorable date where we shot clay pigeons. I missed every single shot and felt shaky the rest of the night.

I have never hunted, or had the desire to hunt. This shooting business is not my forté.

Earlier, I had watched the other cadets to figure out how to set up my paintball gun. I loaded up with orange and green “bullets.”

We had hiked halfway up the mountain. Fortunately, I wasn’t the only person out of breath. Once we arrived at the destination, I was assigned to Team Alpha and told which plot to hunker down in. This military language still confuses me, and I worried I would misunderstand a command and mess up the whole plot.

As I crouched in my hole, waiting for the other side to approach, I caught view of a guy whom I will call Mountain Man, viewing us from a higher peak. Part of me wished I were up there with him, likely meditating. Instead, I was in the midst of a battlefield with a mean stomachache and sore legs from the previous days’ PT.

The worst part was the anticipation. Once I heard guns firing, I instinctively found myself in a defensive squat, aiming my gun and scanning the horizon. Green, pink, orange and red paintballs were flying everywhere.

Another cadet and I crouched in our most distant corner spot, waiting until our opponents were within shooting distance.

“Wait, wait…,” he kept repeating, until finally, “Fire!”

I shot in the direction of “the enemy,” trying to stay low enough to avoid their shots. I had a few near misses, and then I lost my partner to a head wound. Not even a minute later, I experienced the same fate. My brains were hypothetically blown into paintball particles, and lay on our backs to indicate our tragic and untimely deaths, holding our guns up.

It all happened so quickly, and though we technically were “dead,” the process was relatively painless. I decided my nervousness was mostly unwarranted. But as a newbie, this reaction was normal, I hoped.

I am not sure what we will be doing for our next ROTC training lab, but I will try not to fight another internal battle. After working myself up so much, I struggled to eat the rest of the day. That was definitely unnecessary.

I still wonder how anyone can take in the reality that they may probably one day be fighting like this for real. There won’t be paintballs or such easy plans of attack. I guess I can’t even grasp that concept. It certainly doesn’t feel real now.

Maybe I don’t have the courage and selflessness my peers seem to possess. Time will tell, I suppose.


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  1. 2 Responses to “Army 4: Cadets go to war in furious mountainside paintball battle”

  2. By Tom B on Apr 5, 2011

    I’ve read all of your Army posts up to this point and found them a great read. Keep em’ coming and push yourself. Like you’ve said in your other posts, ROTC has some of the most supportive people you will ever find.

  3. By Natasha Bodily on Apr 10, 2011

    Hi Tom, Thanks for the encouragement, it certainly is difficult keeping up with the ROTC (especially waking up!). But you are definitely right, they are a very supportive group of people.

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