Teufelhunden – an interview with Umberto M from reenactment group MFR Italy
… through an inadvertent error on my behalf, we published a photo incorrectly attributed to being previously seen on the old and now sadly lamented ‘Wannabe‘ forums. Embarrassment aside, as serendipity would have it, the originator kindly got in touch, and after a short few polite messages back and forth I was invited to check out their page ‘Marine Force Recon Italy‘ …
WoW !!! … absolutely, undoubtedly I was blown away. I’d not seen this level of screen accurate Load Outs for many, many years. I’ll confess, whilst there’s many very good re enactment pages tackling the venerable 75th, but I’ve always viewed some of the material and how it’s presented with an element of suspicion …
However, here, we have a considerable sized group, respectfully and in very high detail portraying a particular favorite of mine The USMC of 31st MEU in their inimitable FSBE gears.
I’d dabbled hard and long with the FSBE I gears a good few years back, and at considerable cost managed to reach a 90% complete set up, but eventually moved onwards …
Not to be deterred these guys have worked long and hard at delivering these striking and iconic gears, so I thought it only too prudent to get on board and tell us all about how it all came to be …
Just to give you a little historical insight into the units MFRI are specifically re enacting and paying tribute to.
The Force reconnaissance companies, also known as Force Recon, are one of the United States Marine Corps’s special operations capable forces (SOC) that provide essential elements of military intelligence to the command element of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force(MAGTF); supporting their task force commanders, and their subordinate operating units of the Fleet Marine Force (FMF).
Historically, the Force Recon companies, detachments and platoons performed both deep reconnaissanceand direct action (DA) operations. Some missions are now shared by the Marine Special Operations Teams (MSOT), due to the establishment of the U.S. Marine Special Operations Command(MARSOC) in 2006.
MARSOC was formed from Force Recon’s direct action platoons, and now are capable of performing many of the same mission sets for USSOCOM. This dual existence now allows the FORECON companies to focus on excelling in their primary intelligence-gathering mission, as well as the Visit, Board, Search, and Seizure(VBSS) side of the specialized raid mission.
Well, without further deliberation we sit down with the groups very own Umberto M. and get an inside view of this profoundly stunning collective.
GM75: Umberto, thanks for coming aboard. I surely made me smile, much to my embarrassment, wrongly attributing that photo to the ‘Wannabe‘ forum. But, magically, by good fortune it put us in touch and naturally, discovered your groups fantastic 31st MEU (Marine Expeditionary Unit) re enactment page.
I was surprisingly overwhelmed that not more people had cottoned on to your page. It’s got some superb stuff on there, and beautiful photography too …
So, by my count there’s seven active members. If we can, how did this all come about, was this a natural progression on from playing ‘Plastic Deth‘ (Airsoft) ?
UM: First of all thank you for this opportunity. I am honored to talk about our world and share our passion.
Talking about our group. I can confirm that this is a progression, which blends the passion to play Airsoft and the passion for military gears. First of all we started to play Airsoft like single players, who started to collect military gears after some years of ‘Plastic Deth’.
GM75: My first impressions, aside from one of pure amazement, were that you’d not gone down the normal route of all just doing ‘infantry’ load outs from the MEU, but specific load outs had been individually chosen, such as Breacher, MOE (Method of Entry) RTO (Radio Transceiver Operator) as well as ‘Rifleman‘. Was this a conscious decision, or something as a collective you arrived at naturally ?
UM: In my experience I started directly to do Marine Force Recon loadouts, because they attracted me at first time round. The motivation is that MFR was something of different, something that not all do and after reading many articles about them, I understood that the work had to be more in depth.
Everyone, in our team, has a role, but it’s wasn’t a conscious decision, because all of us where trying to finish the kit (FSBEII) with all the accessories to do all kinds of impressions between 2004 to 2010/2011 circa and during this year after many purchases all of us have something different to the other guy and as you say, everyone can be a breacher, rifleman, RTO or what else, everything is decided based on the events or photoshoots using the reference photos.
GM75: This was, whilst an arduously hard impression to do, it was exceptionally popular amongst impressionist around 2007/2008. Due to the scarcity and availability of some of the component parts, doing an FSBE almost some ten years on, logistically, how hard was it for not just one of you but seven of you to pull off this iconic 2006 era load out ?
UM: In the beginning, I started to collect “latest gears” made in 2010 for example because in my mind I wanted to make an 2010 impression, but all changed (laughs), I started to buy old gen gears because seeing old photos, they captured much more my attention and imagination, the loadout was more interesting, but as you know, these items are too rare now, and the economic situation doesn’t help the international gear market.
But, we are nostalgic and we love old stuffs. They have something fascinating.
GM75: So, what drew you to this particular load out. Was there a jumping off point, where you’d started with either other gears, or stuff held over from ‘Plastic Deth‘ where you consciously made the decision to move over to a fully formed impression.
UM: Most of the group began several years before than me and I started with only one Airsoft teammate, we were conscious that this project would be a long process, but it was what we wanted to do and now we are satisfied with this chosen path.
GM75: I with equal measure of love and hate, miss researching gears. It was painstakingly laborious, hours spent poring over footage and photos, scouring forums and books, but equally miss the rewards of completing something that was pouch perfectly authentic. What was the process as a group on gathering all the historical information ?
UM: The process was very simple, the interest to know more and more about this world and it has led us to information about it. We used forums and groups to talk about photos and historical information found on Internet sites or books, and to share what we find and so we all learn more.
GM75: Had you received any external advice from real steel guys, or had an reactions to your impressions from the MEU community. It’s been all very tastefully done, and serves as a fitting tribute to Marines of that era …
UM: Unfortunately we have received a few reactions from real steel guys, people think that we have no respect for those Marines or that we do it to play and that we think we are real soldiers, but it isn’t like that, we do it to pay tribute to those Marines, who served for their country during that era (2004-2010 for example) and I feel that I can share this motto: “honouring the fallen, supporting the wounded, reenacting the heroes.”
GM75: I was surprised how many people had overlooked what you are doing, are the days of the impression over, or in fact dead. Do you also feel, that such levels of detail or accuracy missed on the masses ?
Is the self satisfaction of building gears such as these, reward enough for you as a group …
UM: I concur with what you are you saying, because Marine Force Reconnaissance are perhaps not as popular like NSW Navy SEAL, 1 SOFD or Marine Raiders. I will not call our community a niche group, because all people can be one of those, but today, MFR are as not fashionable and international market can share in it, FSBEII have lower prices than in the past for example, pouches are not sold for lot of time for example.
GM75: What for really you sets off a load out, really giving it that functional operability so frequently observed of real steel operators in archive material. I noticed many, many details that real made me smile. Correct mag counts, models of personal torches, mounted on horizontal MOLLE adapters, plus all the requisite little details such as helmet markings, NVG mounts etc …
In addition to this, the correct placement of pouches, issue boots, gloves etc really impressed upon me how hard and long you’ve worked on this …
UM: I am very happy that you have seen all those details, in Italy we say that details and reenactment are like ‘ass and s**t’, they are inseparable. The rules to do a good impression are a lot, but the most importand is follwing the ref photos, they can tell you what is legit or not.
GM75: To pay tribute to those you emulate, is this also important to achieve an impression that respectfully portrays that unit, I’d imagine a half finished work in progress could easily draw negative inference or be just dismissed as ‘Airsofters‘ ?
UM: In my opinion, if you have a work in progress impression, you have to work harder and find the missing details. If you have any questions, don’t you worry and ask to those people, who know more about it, but ask the right questions. All of us started doing a WIP and no one had at the first time a completed kit, so work hard and spend your time to study and learn more about what you want to do.
GM75: So, with the level of expertise, in historically researching these gears, and subsequently building this impression, what advice would you give to any budding impressionists out there …
UM: check the last answer (laughs) but, seriously PM us on our Facebook page and we’ll gladly help out …
GM75: Last but not least, whilst perhaps not entirely applicable to this interview, this is a trademark question, real steel ammo counts – something I’m a fan of but has really struggled to take off due to Airsoft’s limited range and accuracy – is there a place for this or do you think it’s not feasible ?
UM: I think that the only place to use the limited magazines like real steel magazines, could be Close Quarter Battle, where you play in small areas. I play every week with low/middle capacity magazine (90bbs circa) in all terrain and I’m very happy, it is more realistic, that is what we want to do, doing reenactment.
… a huge thank you to Umberto and MFRI coming on board to do this interview. Be sure to head on over to their page below and say hello … S23
Check out more from Marine Force Recon Italy
… for further reading and history on the MFR this is well worth checking out …
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