On August 16th, 2012, I had the opportunity to participate in a new form of “tactical entertainment.” Adventure Combat Ops combines the allure of Tier One Special Operations with the theatrical, and instinctively dreadful, concept of the zombie apocalypse. Who wouldn’t want to hang out with some badass operators while stitching zombies with airsoft pellets? No one I know.
I learned of the event in passing after a remark about it was posted on the Facebook page of author and retired Delta Force officer, Dalton Fury. Curious, I made contact with the staff of Adventure Combat Ops. Soon afterward, I received a phone call from the Director of ACO, himself a veteran of that elite group of operators they call “The Unit.” Arrangements were made for me to come out to the event and conduct some interviews. Not content to simply watch as others enjoyed themselves, I also registered as a participant.
Since many of the operators involved in ACO are still active within the Special Operations community, full names will not be included in this article with the exception of the “public faces” of the organization. Suffice to say, they are the real deal, verifiable, combat proven, warriors promised by ACO’s website.
The Director of ACO took a seat inside one of the tents, removing his Glock from its appendix carry position and placing it on an empty seat next to him. As he did so I immediately regretted leaving my own Glock in my truck but, ever conscious of following the rules, no real weapons were allowed at the event. For the participants, anyway. Between the Director, Melissa, Zora, Jesse, and Tim, I was given the complete story of Adventure Combat Ops from concept to realization. Amazingly, the entire operation was put together in just four months. It was a massive endeavor that required much of the skill-sets that many of these operators brought to the table, including equipment procurement, site surveys, property assessments, and the schmoozing of local officials.
While speaking with the Director in the briefing tent, I caught sight of Ranger Hall of Fame inductee, retired Army Ranger, and now one of the actors in the web-series ‘Black’, Max Mullen. “Mad” Max joined us for a brief talk.
As Max and I talked about the details of the event, a large gust of wind slipped under the briefing tent, lifting it up from the ground. A large, flat-screen television, intended to be used as the briefing screen, had been leaning against one of the tent supports and came crashing down onto a metal, folding chair inside the tent. The screen cracked in several places. Max and I carried the now useless casualty out of the tent. The loss of the screen caused a slight delay in operations as it was critical to the full experience. The team was able to acquire a replacement television for use in the evening’s adventure.
Dalton Fury’s name came up again and Max talked about his days in the Ranger Regiment with Fury. “Dalton and I used to do combative demonstrations together. “He’s a dirty fighter!” I didn’t ask for clarification. As Fury was also Travi’s former Troop Commander in Delta, and a former Scout who served with Fury, Chris, was one of my fellow participants, it seemed everyone had a story to tell. Someday I will have to sit down with Dalton for his own interview. I’m sure his side of the story will be slightly different. Well, aside from the dirty fighting part.
Before we launched, I was introduced to the other minds behind the ACO experience. Representatives from virtually every branch of the military’s special operations forces were present. Veterans of the Rangers, Special Forces, Delta Operators, SEALs, MARSOC, Air Force Special Operations, and even the 160th SOAR make up the bulk of the ACO operation. Participants in such historic incidents as the capture of Saddam Hussein, the battle of Tora Bora, and operations immortalized in the film Black Hawk Down were present to kick off this unique endeavor. It was the most impressive batch of badasses a civilian could hope to encounter.
As night fell across the city, the participants were placed into a briefing tent to receive their required briefings. Safety was emphasized as well as rules of engagement. The bottom line on ROEs was relatively simple: If it appears to be walking dead, make it deader. Max Mullen, Tom Baller, and Ted Lunar would be our team leaders for the night. As we exited the briefings, the team leaders grabbed members and separated them. Max pointed his trigger finger in my direction and informed me that I would be joining his team. I didn’t argue. That would be silly.
Equipment issue and team briefings followed. Weapons were test fired and basic tactics were demonstrated before we surrounded an abandoned school building across the street. We were given the green light to assault the building and off we went, throwing ourselves toward the unknown.
As part of Team Mad Max, our responsibility was intelligence. Scattered among the debris and detritus of the school house were documents, photos, and internal communications from terrorist organizations. Keeping the team on mission while fighting off the zombie horde proved difficult, if not impossible. The team leaders kept the teams focused and on track as best they could but, as expected, the chaos of a terror cell and flesh-eating zombies were more than some of the participants could manage. Some of them fired on anything they saw in the shadows. Including yours truly.
With smoke, lasers, strobes, thumping sound effects, and the occasional artillery simulator, the assault on your senses is complete. I suppose I could occasionally appear zombie-like, especially early in the morning prior to my required three cups of coffee, but, geared up like a character from Medal of Honor Warfighter, I would think you could differentiate between me and my undead friends. Apparently, an eager zombie-slayer could not.
As I creeped out of a doorway of a room my team had just cleared, an airsoft pellet zipped past my nose. Assuming I was moving into someone’s line of fire I froze in place and leaned backward slightly. The next rounds were on target, two striking me in the shoulder and another tagging me in the left ear. Since the zombies were unarmed I immediately began yelling, “Blue! Blue! Cease fire!” That call eventually filtered through the ranks and team members began calling it out when they encountered other “good guys” throughout the building. There’s no telling how many friendly fire incidents we prevented with that procedure. It was too late for me. Remember me well, my friends.
With blood trickling down my neck and a need to exterminate something, anything, we moved through the building clearing rooms, zapping zombies and collecting our required intelligence data. The mission inside the complex lasted well over an hour, and it was a hell of a lot of fun!
The next stop for ACO will be Miami. If you get the chance to participate I encourage you to do so. With future locations being sorted out as I type this, there should be many more events showing up on ACO’s website in the coming weeks. The team from ACO will also be appearing on the television show Shark Tank. Details are being worked out for an ACO event at MUTC in Indiana. That event looks to be the mother of all zombie apocalypse adventures. For updates and more information, check out their website at adventurecombatops.com