Follow along with Kaiju!
- This Map will be updated as we travel!
Please join me and my journey to and from Overwatch 4 by Doomsday Airsoft. So there I was… standing at the gate in Denver, CO waiting for my redeye flight to Philadelphia, PA. Since all the seats in the waiting area were filled and boarding would not start for another 30 minutes, I decided to take a ride on the moving sidewalks in front of the gate. It was funny watching people trying to hide their curiosity as I kept traveling back and forth in front of them more than a dozen times! I made it to Philadelphia safely and caught a Lyft to my hotel in Swedesboro, NJ, which was about a 25 minute drive. Good thing I had a Lyft groupon! I didn't get to sleep until about 2am because I was answering emails and taking care of business.
After enjoying a full service breakfast and my hot cocoa with whipped cream and chocolate sauce because coffee is the devil, I packed up and headed over to our main sales office and company headquarters. I was very excited to meet the team. I had no clue what any of my co-workers looked liked and had only heard their voices through conference calls. Not a single person looked like how I imagined! Now that is not a bad thing, but I'm sure I was not what they expected either. The Kaiju is a lot to take in! Hahaha
My first eye opener was witnessing our printing capabilities in full swing. Our marketing team was printing Point of Purchase (POP) posters and trimming them down to size. The printer was HUGE, and made light work of the posters! One of the benefits of being one of our dealers, is that our marketing team can design and create custom printed material for our dealers with their logo and information at no cost to the dealer. We can create posters, price tags, postcards, whatever they may need to help their business.
After hanging with the marketing crew for a bit, I drive down the road to our R&D department. I was amazed by how diverse and equipped the department was. There were machines that I had never personally seen before. I saw everything from lathes and CNC machines to 3D printers and a plasma cutter. One lathe particularly impressed me because we use it to custom make parts for our V12 HPA engine. And I would be lying if I said I didn't want to cram the smaller 3D printer into my luggage and take it home with me so I could print the scope for my DLT-19 heavy blaster. I also love the idea that we can tweek our designs in house and print them over and over before sending them to production, which saves a lot of time. We also have our own in-house welder, which allows us to make custom rifle racks and stands for dealers.
Next stop was our warehouse where I met the man, the myth, the legend known as A-Train from YouTube. I helped A-Train turn in his inventory from the van, which was no easy task if any of you have ever tried to reconcile inventory, or review property books in the military. But the great thing was that I didn't mind because A-Train smells like cookies! So we initially anticipated to leave New Jersey enroute to Florida by 1pm. That turned into 5pm. Not because we were slow, but because we were thorough. Attention to detail and determination to take care of our dealers were our motivation. We ended up loading about 1.5 tons of BBs and other products into the van in order to hand deliver to dealers down the Eastern coastline. Why? Because we put our dealers first and we take care of our family. After we were finally loaded up, I had one more operation to learn about before we left.
I had heard that we provide custom embroidery services. So I made my way over to the other side of the warehouse and was introduced to a beast of a machine that was a 6-head embroidery machine. And we not only had a 6-headed dragon but also a single head embroidery machine as well. Another one of our free services that we offer our dealers is embroidering their logo or custom text on rifle bags, ball caps, beanies, hoodies, etc. So my next project is to bring the single head embroidery machine to our next event and stitch a bunch of Valken Alliance ball caps with the text #FREEJOSH on the back! So we got on the road at 5pm in Swedesboro, NJ and we didn't pull into Days Inn at Fayetteville, NC until 2am.
So we didn't get a lot of sleep last night, but the Roadwarrior twinsies had to get back on the road. We grabbed breakfast at 8am, threw on our sunglasses, and looked cooler than Batman climbing into the Batmobile in slow motion. Well at least that is how I felt. So as we were rolling down I-95, I was a bit anxious and A-Train suggested that I do an LIVE unboxing video on Facebook before we hit our first stop of the day. So even though I am nowhere near as funny as A-Train, I had fun with it. You can find it as a public video on my personal Facebook page to see what was in the box.We stopped at numerous fields on this day. I got to see so many cool things, such as a real life Nuketown map from the Call of Duty video game in Savannah, Georgia and a Battleship in Jacksonville, Florida! To meet with field owners and hear their stories was amazing and humbling all at the same time. Eventhough I love attending national airsoft events, but local fields and local shops are the lifeblood of our industry. We all have to do our part to visit our local shops and fields regularly so they can stay open and take care of our community. So I'm proud that Valken is committed to support their local dealers. Even though Disney World was closed by the time we rolled through Orlando, I got to walk the pier in Daytona Beach and enjoy some awesome all-you-can-eat Bourbon Molasses chicken wings. We pulled into our next hotel at 3am in Avon Park, Florida. We still had 2 more hours until our destination, but we had to pull over and rest. It's going to be an awesome day on Friday, and A-Train needs his beauty sleep.
So there we were… with only 3 hours of sleep, A-Train and I were excited to hurry up and get to the party at Altair Regional Training Center in Immokalee, FL. As we drove the final 2-hour leg, we scoured the nearby roadside hoping to see an alligator. Alas, we didn't see any alligators, but we did see a turtle.
When we arrived at the Area of Operations (AO), we were welcomed with open arms. As we rolled through the main gate with windows down in the company van, I could hear friends calling out in the distance. It was so awesome to see some of my extended airsoft family. Even though, I had not seen many of them for a year or longer, it was like we never missed a day! Seeing old friends, such as AJ from ACES airsoft team or Mark from TAGinn in Russia, brought back memories of flooding in a junkyard and Russian Vodka. Not necessarily related, but wouldn't that be an epic story if they were!
It was also great to meet new friends face-to-face for the first time! Exchanging German conversation with Felix from Phoenix Feather Airsoft YouTube channel reminded me of fond memories from Germany, including Sniper Airguns, Kartoffelklösse, and Team Red Dragon. I cannot wait to return to the IWA trade show in Nüremberg, Germany in March 2018! There will be many shenanigans to be had on that road trip.
I also enjoyed finally meeting Nathan Lord, fellow costumer and Star Wars enthusiast, and the rest of ECHO4 airsoft team. It's amazing how airsoft and all things nerdy bring people together from all over the world. It was also emotional to see Ricardo from Airsoft Tactical Store and 19 other players across five teams from Puerto Rico. My brothers in PR are near and dear to my heart since my wife's family is from Puerto Rico. And they still came to the US in spite of the damage caused by hurricane Irma just to play airsoft… to lighten their load and raise their spirits. Nothing ever gets these guys down!
The coolest thing throughout the day was watching A-Train from YouTube experiencing all the unique things I love about airsoft. And nothing says airsoft like patches! Tacticool Imaging was there and their patch game was on point as always. As you can see, A-Train had his favorites as well. Oh, and sorry for the shameless plug, but #FREEJOSH. I also had a proud papa moment seeing A-Train truly enjoying himself while filming Valken airsoft sponsored team - TAPP Airsoft running through the TAGinn shooting competition, witnessing law enforcement repelling down a prison, and bringing Chele a cup of ice that was the size of a kitchen sink! My boy is all grown up *sniff*
So we knocked out the norm of checking-in at registration, certifying a plethora of airsoft rifles, and attending a great safety brief from callsigm Bulldog. He is such an awesome guy from the organizers of Doomsday Airsoft. Bulldog truly cares about the community of players. But after checking off the boxes, I continued a long Friday night tradition of breaking bread with my extended airsoft family. We shared some funny stories with the boys from TAPP Airsoft over an entire flock of chicken wings. I welcomed them all in as the newest members of Vegas 6 because legacy is everything. Legacy is more than just leaving behind what you have accomplished, but more so how you are remembered. Be intentional and humble, and the world will remember and respect you forever more.
So there we were… standing in formation inside the prison at Altair Training Solutions and hearing leaders yelling at players to hurry up and get in line. I love the smell of motivation in the morning! Once everyone had lined up in some semblance of organization, callsign Bulldog stood in front of everyone and said, "if anyone takes a knee during the national anthem, they will take both of us to the hospital because my boot will be stuck in your ass!" Have I told you how much I love this guy? This was epic! I have always had the opinion that we get to play this awesome sport because of the freedoms of our country. So we should respect things like… oh, I don't know… the national anthem!
Everyone then moved out to their respective Command Posts (CP) for the start of Evolution 1 while the "little bird" was making salivating passes at just 200-ft overhead. Myself and TAPP Airsoft were rolling with the Sovereign States faction, which was assigned green based camouflage. My chosen uniform for the day was the Valken Tactical TANGO Combat Uniform in M81 Woodland pattern. My blaster of choice was powered by the Valken V12 HPA engine thanks to TAPP Airsoft member, Tyler.
The missions were simple throughout the day, and the fragos were straight forward. I spent most of the day shadowing the Sovereign States commander as his personal security. The weather was bright and sunny with a high temperature of 81°. So it was a blistering Florida day in the month of December. As members of TAPP Airsoft would roll in, I instructed them to take a break in the shade and get ready for a group frago. Now these guys didn't know what it meant to take a break. So I reminded them that milsim is a marathon and not a sprint. Eventhough their break was no more than 30 minutes, it must have felt like hours to them. Even when our CP was being attacked by our opponent, I forced them to hold and not engage. There were 30 other friendly faction members to hold off the attack, so I wasn't worried.
The call came down and we were sent on a frago to a small compound away from the prison. Our job was to relieve friendly forces in place, find a black control box in the compound, switch the timer to our faction, and guard it as long as possible. There were only 8 of us to secure four buildings, two bunkers, and three entrances into the compound. So no small task, but we had the advantage of defending from hard cover. The first of two waves consisted of eight opponents and they were dropped off just out of sight from our position. They remained hidden for quite a while and then they emerged walking in a gaggle with their weapons pointed in the air. It was strange because they were walking like they were dead but no dead rags were visible. Our team was confused on what to do until the strolling gaggle opened fire from about 50-ft away. We made short work of them and they gave up before they reached the entrance to the compound. We only lost three teammates, but they were quickly revived by our medic. We later spoke to the opposing squad while they were waiting for the dead wagon and they admitted that they thought we were 20 troops by the way we stayed hidden but quickly annihilated them. I just grinned and wished them a safe ride back to their CP not telling them we were only 8 bodies.
Normally, we would have stayed and participated for day 2 of Operation Overwatch 4, but A-Train and I had more presents to deliver for Santa. So we packed up, tightened our boot straps, and headed back up the gulf coast of Florida like the good working elves we are. One may not think that the state of Florida is very big when travelling east to west, but going from south to north is one heck of a trek. Regardless of the miles it takes for us to travel, we are always there for our local dealers. One of the biggest reasons why I love to work at Valken is because of their motto, "whatever it takes." I don't have a fancy business degree, or sales training from the likes of Zig Ziggler. I was an Army officer and Deputy Sheriff. My motivation comes from loyalty and selfless service. For me personally, it's about doing whatever I can wherever I can for anyone that needs help because I take pride and joy in making someone else's life better. And at the end of the day, we do that here at Valken.
This weekend, we loved hanging out with Troy and Chele from Stampede Airsoft and helping out with their mobile shop at the event. They are truly a strong couple that are passionate and put their entire heart and soul into this sport. Also, I'm not sure if it was divine intervention or just blind luck, but we showed up at Urban Combat Airsoft just as they sold their last bottle of BBs. This field is the perfect example that everyone started out as a small business once. And Willie is a great example of someone building up the local community. And nothing replaces the laughs I get when I get to hang out with Ted and Jenn from Leviathan Tactical. They are an absolute hoot and if you follow them on social media, you will see that they throroughly love airsoft. So we go out to dinner with them to their favorite local restaurant and Ted challenges me to kiss the Moose at McGuire's. I not only kissed the Moose once… but twice! These friends are not just store or field owners to me. They are my extended family and I treat them as such. And no one messes with my family.