Airsoft Club gets go-ahead from Norwich to offer military mock combat game

After several failed attempts by students at Norwich University to form an Airsoft Club, or Airsoft Division as they are also known, recent efforts have finally succeeded, thanks to improved planning and presentation.

“The Airsoft Club did a terrific job preparing their presentation (this year). They learned over the course of their last few attempts the issues that we (the safety committee) were worried about,” said Dave Magida, Norwich’s chief administrative officer as well as the chair of the safety committee.

Before a club can start at Norwich, there is a process it must go through to become university sanctioned. One step in that process is getting approved by the safety committee.

“If it’s a student organization, Greg Mcgrath, director of student activities, will bring it before our committee to see if we have any issues with it. Most organizations we don’t have any issues with,” Magida said, “we make sure we understand how the club is going to operate and address any concerns before it is authorized to start.”

Similar to paintball, Airsoft is a form of sport in which contestants aim to eliminate each other with specialized guns. However, the weapons and ammo differ between sports. An Airsoft gun typically uses either a compressed gas or piston driven system to fire its ammo; usually a small plastic pellet, rather than a ball of paint.

Vipairsoft.net describes the game as, “A military simulation sport where players participate in mock combat with authentic military-style weapons and tactics.” The guns used are, “full scale replicas of real world weapons.”

The authentic appearance of the Airsoft guns was something that really stood out to the safety committee, according to Magida.

“The challenge that Airsoft had was how the guns looked. A paintball gun does not look like a real gun. Airsoft guns do,” he said. “We didn’t want people to be unduly scared by the weapons, and we didn’t want some student getting hurt because someone may have thought it was a real weapon.”

To avoid confusion and concern, club members walking around campus with their guns will be required to wear the proper uniform.

“When we’re on campus we’ll be in ACUs so people know that it’s nothing to be afraid of,” according to the club’s Commanding Officer, Jared Cavanagh, a 20-year-old math major from Summerville, S.C.

In addition to required uniforms, a number of other rules were set forth by the club.

When competing on a playing field, whether on Paine Mountain or off-campus, Cavanagh said the club will take numerous safety precautions. In the draft of the club’s constitution, there is a list of mandatory equipment: “safety goggles, safety vests, safety gloves, safety helmet, proper footwear, and safety locks and barrel covers for weapons.”

When not competing, steps will be taken on campus to ensure gun safety. Most club members have their own guns they keep stored on campus. When not in use, all guns will be kept under lock and key within the Wise Campus Center. The only people who will have access to the room are Cavanagh and a member of the university.

“That way we know the only people that can get in and out of there are us two,” said Cavanagh. He continued, “The individual and myself are both responsible persons and we do not plan to let anyone wrongfully or illegally take something that is not theirs.”

To accompany this rule, the club’s constitution also includes proper etiquette, mishap prevention, and a zero tolerance policy. It even includes a section titled “The ‘What if’ Factor,” which details the protocols to follow if anything should go wrong.

The section states, “If anything were to happen, the division has a fully certified and trained member to aid where it is needed.” It continues, “Every participant is required to fill out a Form-116 with the Airsoft Division. This form is a medical form and is non-negotiable.”

Additionally, every new member signs a form agreeing to all safety procedures. With all of these rules and precautions in place, the safety committee decided there was enough reason to approve the club.

“I can tell you in previous years the airsoft presentations didn’t go anywhere because there were so many holes in it. These guys plugged every hole, I really can’t compliment them enough,” said Magida.

He appeared optimistic about the future of the Airsoft Division, mentioning the tremendous track records of previously approved clubs. He couldn’t remember a time the safety committee has had to revoke a club, and credits Greg McGrath for holding all clubs to their standards. Undoubtedly, the Airsoft Division seeks to do the same.

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