War games draw enthusiasts

Back row, from left: Lachlan Alloushe, Tom Wright, Andrew Tajsic and Deane Campbell, with front row (crouching), from left: Simon Cox and Jason Bird, plus John Plaister (lying), take on the challenge of the Airsoft military Simulation on Saturday. All but Mr Campbell, of Oamaru, are Australian. Photo by Andrew Ashton.
Back row, from left: Lachlan Alloushe, Tom Wright, Andrew Tajsic and Deane Campbell, with front row (crouching), from left: Simon Cox and Jason Bird, plus John Plaister (lying), take on the challenge of the Airsoft military Simulation on Saturday. All but Mr Campbell, of Oamaru, are Australian. Photo by Andrew Ashton.
Coalpit Hill near Oamaru became a war zone over the weekend as about 100 people took part in New Zealand's largest amateur military simulation event.

"Operation Bearclaw" which took place on Saturday and yesterday, was part of an annual gathering of Airsoft enthusiasts, and although organiser and former soldier Deane Campbell said players used BB guns that fired soft projectiles, the event was intended to be as realistic as possible.

Mr Campbell said this year players were helicoptered into the "war zone" by Heliventures in Weston, and a 25-pound (11.4kg) cannon would fire blank rounds to add realism.

"After 16 years with the army I'm trying to give the players the best available military experience without the hard yards.

"So they get orders and no sleep for 24 hours, plus long walks, heaps of shooting and some real surprises such as having to stretcher a 'wounded' guy 2km in forestry and open land while being tracked by the enemy," Mr Campbell said.

He said the event was the biggest of its kind in the country and had attracted 98 competitors, many of whom were former members of the armed services.

"We have players from as far afield as Australia," he said.

Heliventures pilot Craig McMillan said he had dropped off 30 people by helicopter and had been directed with smoke flares where to land with.

"It was very intense. The guys all had heaps of equipment. It was very impressive, and a lot of fun."

-andrew.ashton@odt.co.nz