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Photos by Muhammed Odeh (click to enlarge) This shows a basic paintball gun, with the yellow team’s flag tied to the paintball carrier.

This picture shows the group from MAS with which I went to Saltfork.

I am shown wearing the protective mask necessary for paintballing. I also have a jacket on, which really reduced the effect of the paintball hitting my upper body.

There were large mounds and other protective features from which players could defend their base.

When on the offensive, trees could provide places from which to shoot.

On a recent Saturday, I packed all the winter clothes I needed: gloves, a jacket, a few pants. But it was perfectly warm outside. So why the heavy apparel? I was going paintballing for the first time in my life.

Every Saturday, I meet with a group called MAS Connect, including a few of my Muslim friends. So we were scheduled to go paintballing at the Saltfork Premier paintball park in Sydney, about 10 minutes west of Urbana.

We arrived at the park at 2 p.m., and I noticed that many of my friends, most of them paintball veterans, were wearing short-sleeve shirts and shorts. In contrast, I was a penguin.

We each paid $25 to get our guns and a few extra paintballs, and then we had an orientation. There was a safe area near the cars where no one could shoot their gun. Whenever not in the safe area, each person had to also have a protective mask on.

Now familiar with the rules, we were each handed paintball guns with covers to place around the muzzle. We turned off the safety and shot a few practice rounds. Then we started a game of elimination.

There were two teams, the yellow and the red. Each went to opposite parts of the forest, just beyond the range of our guns. At the bellow of the horn, we charged forward, sprinting from ditch to tree to find a nice defensible protection from which to hit people.

There wasn’t much gunfire in the first minute, but afterward, paintballs could be heard from all directions. I hid behind a tree and shot from far range, hitting three people until a paintball hit the tree and sprayed some paint on my jacket.

Luckily for me, since I was wearing the jacket, I didn’t have to deal with bruises. But one of my friends wasn’t so lucky. He was in short sleeves and was hit from behind from 10 feet with a paintball that ripped off the skin where it hit. Afterward we refilled our guns with air and paintballs.

Ten minutes later we played a huge 40-minute game of “capture the flag.” If we were ever hit, we had to run back to our base at the farthest end of the field and start again. The team that raised the most flags in the middle of the field for the longest time would win.

Many paintballers joined us with automatic paintball guns, machine guns, and even a grenade launcher. My team, consisting of less experienced players, was able to outsprint our opponents to the middle and raise our flag, but we weren’t able to hold those flags for half of the game.

That second half of the game took what felt like forever. Everywhere I went, I was quickly hit by the red team. By the end I felt like if I just popped my head a little above the ground, I would quickly be hit. I tried crawling through the leaves to the other side, but was shot by an enemy camouflaged sniper, whom I noticed after it was too late.

I came to SaltFork expecting to use paintball guns that were long ranged and like sniper guns, but while paintballing, I learned that one had to get to a close range to do any major affect. It was WWII style close combat, and by the time I finished, I felt like jumping whenever someone clapped.

By this time we had finished, and one thing that I had learned was that if you want to familiarize yourself with the feeling of a warzone, practicing regularly at Saltfork is the way to go.


One Comment

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