Ashley Collins has a red circle on her neck where a marble-sized paintball slammed into her bare skin but didn’t break.
“Yeah, that hurt,” she said.
Under the rules, if a paintball doesn’t break, you aren’t dead, so Ashley isn’t dead.
A junior majoring in exercise science at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Collins is a UTC Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps cadet. On Thursday, April 6, she was one of 30 UTC ROTC cadets running around Insane Paintball/Airsoft in Rossville, Georgia, trying to “kill” one another. If the paintball had burst when it hit Collins’ neck, she would’ve yelled “Hit!” or “Out!”, raised her weapon and left the battlefield—officially known as an “arena.”
But it didn’t, “so I just kept shooting,” said Collins, who had a splatter of pinkish paint in her hair from a ball that broke near her head.
Zack Hatcher, a military science instructor at UTC who was in ROTC at the University of Mississippi, was in charge of the fake-death-dealing exercise at Insane.
“We just had our spring FTX (Field Training Exercise) last weekend, which is our culminating event for the year before they go to all their summer training and stuff,” said Hatcher, who is pursuing a master’s in business administration.
“So after being in the woods for a couple days and having to sit out in the rain, in the cold, this is a fun event—a team-building exercise. Let them finish out the semester on a high note.”
In one exercise at Insane, the cadets, all dressed in heavy camouflage fatigues, were divided into two teams and placed in a roped-off arena about the size of a football field. Large, corrugated plastic pipes were scattered throughout, some standing, some on their sides.
In that tight field, the “pop” of the guns—which hold about 200 paintballs each—was near-constant, and the battle was over in about five minutes.
In the following scenario, the fighting took place in a large, wooded area that had been partially clearcut. Piles of recently cut logs lay here and there between living trees.
Cadets wove in and out of the cover, running, sliding, and hiding. The battle lasted well over 20 minutes with far less pop-pop-pop and more back-and-forth yelling between the players.
“He’s out of ammo!”
“To your left! To your left!”
“He’s behind the tree in the middle! In the middle!”
Despite the slight thump of getting hit by a paintball—a sting if it hits bare skin—an afternoon of games is a nice change from “running people through drills and stuff,” said cadet William Anderson, who plans to graduate in May with a degree in anthropology.
“It’s just get together and work together and have fun.”