United Forces – An Interview with Combined Task Force 226
We’ve enjoyed from the very outset the support of Gray Fox, Cobalt, Black Scorpions NLD, Diablo and TF Copperhead. Respectively being interviewed, or even contributing to the blog.
Over several years, organically in the making, they’ve followed natural evolution to form a new formidable group, Combined Task Force 226 (CTF226).
In sheer scale, this is a formidable proposition, allowing at full strength over fifty players, assembled from all teams to be in the field. Or alternatively drawing upon available call signs to put a still considerable number out at anyone time, representing CTF226.
So, it’s with great pride, when this was announced and they approached us with this phenomal collective, we agreed to sit down with all of them for an inside exclusive look at CTF226. Let’s get on the ‘Pain Train’ …
S23: So,together Gray Fox, Cobalt, Diablo, Black Scorpions NLD and TF Copperhead. It’s almost like a supergroup comprised of the United Kingdoms, and Europe’s most prolific teams. Individually you’ve built great reputations, attending events the length and breadth of the country, and naturally teamed up on a regular basis. What was the catalyst that brought you together to create Combined Task Force 226 (CTF226) ?
C12: TF226 originally was the name of a social media group with Cobalt, Diablo and Copperhead members in, named so because Max from Diablo had a radio that can only do channel 2 CTCSS 26! Bit of an in joke to begin with I suppose, we use the (now renamed) group to plan team meet ups, forthcoming events, training etc.
One of the Diablo guys suggested in December 2015 that we make the association between our teams a little more obvious and get a patch made that we can all wear when we’re playing together as the ‘Cobablo’ mix.
On the lead up to a game at Sennybridge in March we realised that the green team was going to be massively stacked with serious UK and EU teams and dubbed that collection of players the ‘pain train’, that of course led to the #nobrakes hashtag. With the way we all played together at that game, as separate callsigns but one coordinated unit it became obvious that the pain train needed a name! The in joke that was Task Force 2-26 became Combined and the brakes were switched off permanently!
D01: The original collaboration of CTF226 with Cobalt grew from a friendship on and off the playing field. That brotherhood was solidified at a weekend event where we rolled as one Callsign. We share the same interests in what we want to get from Airsoft and share the same ethos in our style of play. In comes 226 and a new platform was born where like-minded players from different teams can come together have fun. Gray Fox and Black Scorpions are the same story, as were Task Force Copperhead of which we’ve known V01 for a very long time.
The problem that belies a lot of teams is that we can rarely field our entire team at any big event due to work and other outside commitments. So naturally, when we attend a MilSim weekend we always want to be with people who share our style of gameplay and have similar plays we can utilise without having to explain how to execute.
F01: I think we have always been drawn together as teams over the years because we all have the same approach to the pastime.
As it’s been said, a lot of us are the Wannabe forum generation which is a UK MilSim bond in itself, then via the many years of events the teams have forged that working respect for what each other can do, then there was the Gray Fox forum launch, which was an attempt to keep the wannabe spirit alive, that then spawned the Gray Fox events which brought us all even closer together (cause we realised we all wanted to same things from the events we attended).
It was at this point from a Gray Fox standpoint we went into hibernation and dropped off the map, but as we began to get back into it again, you couldn’t help but notice that Colbalt/Diablo/TFC were seriously pipe hitting some games together, kicking ass, posting great videos (more like massacres) and and #’ing them all over social as #ctf226. So when we all agreed to form up for Sennybridge in March, Gray Fox were more than happy to get onboard the pain train!
V-02: We’re honoured to be considered a ‘prolific team’. Actually we’re the youngest in the CTF. V-01 (featured here previously on our Wannabe feature) was one of the founding members of Team Wannabe and an admin on the Wannabe forum. So he knows several of the Diablos from way back, in fact some of the ex-Wannabes are Diablos now. I guess those credentials got us a fast track pass as we’ve only attended three major events to date.
The majority of what we have done to date seems to mostly be training events and walk on skirmishes. Other than that we all seem to get on well together and mesh well with the other teams.
S23: So, having organically arrived at a point where naturally a collaboration has been conducive to improved participation at events large, or small – naturally you’ve decided to mark this melding of minds with a very stunning patch, brought to life by no other than Harry from BritKitUSA (He made our Mk II Patches by the way). I’ve seen earlier a sneak peek of stickers, and the design work you all collaborated on. What can you tell about that process ?
C12: The patch design process for the slightly less serious ‘pain train’ patch was long winded, everyone had their own idea of what they wanted it to look like and after the 50th change I had to call it finished or it would have never ended!
Big props to Alex from Diablo who took the design to BritKitUSA for embroidering and has basically pushed the whole thing forward while I’ve been dealing with real life.
D01: Always a difficult one!
Ultimately it was about having something that represented the collective.
This went two ways – a CTF military style patch and more of a morale patch.
The biggest issue faced was to try and step away from a committee meeting and simply make it happen! Kudos to F23 And C12 from Gray Fox and Cobalt respectively. It’s not easy trying to keep over forty people on the the same topic, in a whatsapp chat! Especially when there’s over 5 inside jokes going on, current affairs discussions, some top banter and one team having English as a second language! My grasp of Flemish will never be as good as their English! Huge rep points for Black Scorpions keeping up with it all!
I think the results speak for themselves and huge thanks those two for making the magic happen.
BS03: The CTF226 patch development has pretty much been the same story. Since the design was a bit harder to realise it took some time to get it the way we all liked it. Credits to Dan from Gray Fox for taking charge on this!
S23: Respectively, you are all highly motivated and capable teams. Something I’ve observed first hand, having fought alongside Cobalt, Diablo, Copperhead and Gray Fox and the Black Scorpions ‘saving’ my ass at Longmore and avenging my ‘Deth’ (Laughs) is your interoperability. Do you plan to consciously mix teams when operating at CTF226, or will you naturally ‘blend in’ as a collective?
F01: Yeah exactly, of course it depends on how many call signs from each team are attending in the first place. If low numbers all round, or within one team they will automatically be integrated.
But due to existing structures and familiarity grown over years, the logical step will be to work in our own teams as squads when fielding large numbers, at least initially when we set out.
Battles guarantee we get split up at some points, the difference between CTF226 ideology and other teams is we are ready and adaptable to those moments and can plow on seamlessly to the objective like nothing changed. That’s no brakes!
C02: I find as well due to the training sessions we’ve taken part in together as well as numerous discussions on tactics it really helps each member from every team realise what they need to be doing in whatever position they find themselves in, for instance in a stack knowing which position does what, point man, second man, last man etc, because we all have that mentality and knowledge we are able to keep flowing as one team even if separated from our actual callsign, main team. I found this worked very well at CAG Op Eaglefury where we all came up on callsigns from other teams getting pinned down trying to advance from a corner, and several members from Black scorpions, Diablo, Gray fox, Cobalt linked up together and pushed around the pinned down callsign pulling them out of trouble and we then went on to pusb the entire enemy force not only out of the area but right back accross the FIBUA (STANTA), in the milsim ops we’ve had, that was one of the best “No Brakes” 226 moments for me, everything just seemed to click, you had F23 taking random guys from whatever team in the Task Force to a roof to provide cover fire with his Support weapon and the others supporting him.
Then we were able to bound from compound to compound seamlessly using those sort of tactics, and the raw agression of it all really caught the OpFor off guard.
F05: It’s all natural. If I find myself in a stack of guys from the the other task force teams we don’t need to spend five minutes agreeing what we are going to do – it just gets done. That’s why the train works – we are breaching and in your face before the other side has had a chance to sort themselves out!
S23: Individually you’ve contributed and participated to both the UK and European ‘Plastic Deth’ and MilSim scene. You’ve also endured the ups and downs of team life. Seeing members come and go, periods of inactivity – but nonetheless weathered the storm and profoundly created this new unified supergroup. Twofold, is this something that could possibly be drawn upon as an example for players in general to improve the community, and as a collective can you see a future raised profile in attendance at future events ?
V02: Although not intentional, I can see how it could have this effect now that the cat’s out of the bag. It may already happen whether consciously or not when different teams are put together and made to work together during big events. I guess we’ve just been lucky enough to have all found our wingmen.
I don’t think an overt presence is in it’s purpose or nature, certainly up until recently no-one outside the group knew about it. Frankly, I find that being part of the CTF is primarily for the benefit of myself and the other members.
C12: I’ll echo what V02 has said above. CTF226 absolutely isn’t a ‘community project’, we’re not doing it to promote UK Milsim, to inspire a new generation or any such lofty ideals. We’re just a bunch of guys that get on well and play with the same level of intensity and commitment as each other.
Personally I don’t care if CTF226 absolutely rolling the other team at a game inspires others to up their game, or if one of our videos inspires someone to make the leap into proper MilSim, if that happens it’ll be a happy side effect of what we do; we have fun.
F01: Being role models to other teams has as much appeal to us as being “sponsored” or that gaining more followers somehow makes us better players. To us that’s a very new and hollow side of the sport. I think one of the great common themes in the teams is that nobody is in CTF226 for anything other than a better game and a better MilSim experience.
D01: Definitely something I wouldn’t advocate unless you are lucky enough to have all those teams holding the same values and ethos as you. Along with it comes a lot of potential disagreements, especially with all the teams holding slightly different values.
We’ve known each other for so long and grown together that even without 226 we would still be doing the same thing. We’ve gravitated towards each other through our similar interests and have known each other for a long time.
As for a raised profile, that’s not the intention. But CTF226 is very organic and exposure is something that will occur whether we want it to or not. Not a single team (in CTF226) has made media presence its primary focus. It’s just happened.
S23: Would you perhaps like to see, as a counter action – a mirror of CTF226 in the form of a large scale OpFor?
D01: That’s up to other teams and individuals to decide. We’re not here to dictate what people want to do. We’re not here to set the airsoft and Milsim scene on fire.
What I would like to see is everyone in Airsoft reach their full potential. That includes us. That will provide even better events we can all enjoy and attend. It’ll also create more realism. We play OpFor at events too. There’s load of photos of CTF226 in their respective teams dressed in realistic setups.
S23: Naturally, you’ve also recently played OpFor at Sterling’s ‘Op Broadsword‘ whilst the other half of CTF226 formed part of the Allied Coalition – a magnanimous undertaking, which surely produced some interesting results ?
D01: Not really. We just wanted to go and have fun. We don’t take ourselves anywhere near as seriously as people think.
The banter in the lead up to, and during the event, was top notch. Especially as we’re playing as opposing forces. Lots of cheap shots and low blows! It’s all about having fun.
If a gun battle were to occur I’m pretty sure we’d all go at it with the same intensity as we always do.
Beyond the safety brief and end game we barely saw each other.
F01: Totally agree and that’s a great point about the banter and general good humour in CTF226.
We are all in combined social media group chats and the reality of MilSim is that games are not that often, certainly not every week, but regardless we do all chat on a daily basis and 90% of the time it’s not even really Airsoft, it’s just joking around.
And that travelled over to that recent event where most of our interaction in game was via these group chats by dropping location markers to goad into firefights, bragging about successes or sending random funny photos like a bunch of Canadian Geese we got ambushed by in the wilds.
V-02: I wouldn’t mind to be honest, but really more of an effort from players and organisers in general, whatever side they are playing on, would really step up the experience for everyone.
I would agree that CTF226 is way more than just ‘Plastic Deth’, I think I’ve done more training and socials than Airsoft in the past year!
S23: Okay, changing tempo slightly. Collectively we’ve all being playing ‘Plastic Deth‘ for many years. Having been through no end of vary iterations of blasters and gears, what is your favorite, or most indispensable must have item ?
F05: Easy – Gen 3 NVG’s. Make such a difference to night games, but does require you to work with them enough to get comfortable moving around brush and urban environments. Engaging with an IR laser is an experience that you cannot but smile every time you do it!
C02: Agree with clint on that Gen 3 NVGs with a good IR laser are sort of of a pass to an unseen world at night, first time I used mine I was literally gobsmacked.
There’s literally a war going on that you don’t know about, IR Lasers and illuminators streaking around the AO people who think their safe sneaking around in the black not realising how easy a target they are as you can see them plain as day.
BS03: Definitely Gen 3+, without any doubt. We all run ANIVIS 6 and PVS14’s, and while most people take it easy at night we can run around with good view, adds alot more game time every event.
Second would be good boots, stable weapons platform and good comms system. All of these need to endure bad weather and rough use, you can’t have things break down halfway through the game.That’s pretty much the reason for us Dutch to get quality reliable kit. And we all know, if you start …
D01: I agree with the rest of the guys. NODs definitely adds a serious element to MilSim’s. But it does need to be a complete set up. IR Illuminators, IR lasers and white light equivalents to match are really key to when the lights go out.
Us Diablos had a tactic to counteract this really well when we didn’t have NODs, but that’s a different conversation!
It’s all good having kit squared away and investing the best for yourself, but I think it’s about the right attitude to gameplay and how you employ that kit for your needs. Get what work and fits, not necessarily what the [SEAL] teams use. The biggest bank account does not guarantee the most fun, or best kills.
Beyond that, my most indispensable piece of kit would be having a fellow 226 member on my shoulder all the way. No doubt in my mind.
F01: You still see a lot of ‘MilSim’ teams who look the business during the day (when it’s mild) but when the night comes, or unexpected poor weather look absolutely miserable with insufficient warm and dry kit and proper bedding down equipment to be properly rested to maintain efficiency all event.
C02: It’s always best playing games without them first since it makes you a better player getting used to playing without any natural light and using your other senses to help you.
Sleeping kit is very overlooked as well, seen it loads of times when people who are brought down by lack of sleep etc because they’ve not prepared sufficient sleeping solutions.
V02: For me its my Salomon boots, you can have loads of fancy gear and bits but if you haven’t got the basics down then it can really ruin your day.
At events you spend a lot of time on your feet, the last thing you want is a poorly fitted or uncomfortable pair of boots to wear all weekend. Even after walking through shin high water and getting my feet wet I still had no issue getting around in comfort for the rest of the weekend.
C12: For me the only ‘essential’ bits of kit are decent eye protection and a working gun. Outside of that its just playing dress up.
Favourite bit of kit though, definitely Gen3 NODs. You can have the same experience at a MilSim during the day wearing £100 worth of repro gear as you can wearing £1,500 of Crye’s finest. Once the lights go out though… It’s a whole other game if you’ve got NODs, as C02 said, an invisible battle that only those ‘in the know’ can participate in.
S23: So, Plastic Deth, Airsoft, MilSim, whatever your preferred nomenclature – what does it mean, or represent to you ?
Is it the social aspect, the thrill of a good firefight, the gear or even camaraderie ?
C12: pretty sure I speak for everyone on 226 when I say it’s a combination of all of those things. If you were to remove any one of them the game wouldn’t ‘work’ for us.
D01: I agree. Some of us prefer one aspect a bit more over the other, but as a whole it’s exactly that.
S23: great stuff, really appreciate you taking the time out to talk, obligatory last question I always like to ask (kind of a trademark), I’m a fan of 30 Rounds per mag, what’s your thoughts on this – could you see this perhaps bringing something new and fresh to game play if embraced by the masses ?
C02: I think its an awesome idea and I’d love for it to be workable but for me Airsoft guns just don’t have the power/range for it to work in my opinion, where as with a real assault rifle you can reach out as far as 6-700 meters accurately and of course some people cant always “feel” when they’ve been shot.
Where as with a real gun they’d more than likely be dead, so I think you need a few extra rounds to deal with stuff like that, I always load my magazines with around 90rds and carry about seven.
F01: I agree with Ben (CO2)
I think the common mid-caps only rule that enforces no hi-caps is the perfect middle ground solution to influencing a skill based game and dealing with the limitations of Airsoft.
You will always get players trying to get an edge over everyone regardless of capacity so they will just bring more mags! and then you will have idiots running around with shingle pouches 4 x deep on their carriers! Very MilSim! (laughs)
C12: I agree with the above too, magazine limits are great in theory but in practice I would say difficult to implement. You’ll always get that guy who loads another 10 into each mag or the one shot you’ve got left bounces harmlessly off someone’s radio pouch and they don’t feel or hear it.
B01: We still play Airsoft, which is shooting BB’s at each other. The moment the rules get too ‘real’ for the game of Airsoft to be played, it basically isn’t Airsoft anymore. In a roleplaying, staged kind of game this would definately work, but then again, it would be a total different kind of game to play. At some games there are ammo limits, that works perfect l!
Overall ammo capacity limits are far easier to ‘enforce’ and are also much more forgiving of the amount of shots it can sometimes take to hit someone that’s moving or behind a small bush!
So, huge thanks to everyone that kindly volunteered to represent their teams, and collectively CTF226. Be sure to check out their respective home pages here – S23
S23 is proudly sponsored by ToySoldier: http://www.toysoldier.com.hk/product/detail/1219