Area 509 officially operational

A paintball player fires a shot from his marker during the Squadron vs. Squadron game May 21. The game was set up as a preview to Area 509 to give everyone a chance to experience paintball firsthand and spread the word that the field was near completion and soon would be open to play. Area 509 is now available for reservation and open play. For more information, call outdoor recreation at 687-5565. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jason Barebo)

A paintball player fires a shot from his marker during the Squadron vs. Squadron game May 21. The game was set up as a preview to Area 509 to give everyone a chance to experience paintball firsthand and spread the word that the field was near completion and soon would be open to play. Area 509 is now available for reservation and open play. For more information, call outdoor recreation at 687-5565. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jason Barebo)

Participants in the Squadron vs. Squadron game May 21 chronograph their paintball markers to ensure they are firing at a speed within a safe range. Safety is a very important part of paintball. Players utilizing Area 509 are required to keep their guns set at 280 feet per second or less. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jason Barebo)

Participants in the Squadron vs. Squadron game May 21 chronograph their paintball markers to ensure they are firing at a speed within a safe range. Safety is a very important part of paintball. Players utilizing Area 509 are required to keep their guns set at 280 feet per second or less. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jason Barebo)

The Northrop-Grumman paintball team, ‘The Company’, stands proud as the winners of the Area 509 grand opening paintball tournament June 9. The Company won the tournament 4-1 in a best of seven competition against the ‘Shadow Brigade.’ They are: (from left to right) Robbie Gillaspie, Ethan Souder, Jeff Blake, Scott Gillaspie, Mark Andrews, Ken Gallagher and Mike Taylor. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jason Barebo)

The Northrop-Grumman paintball team, ‘The Company’, stands proud as the winners of the Area 509 grand opening paintball tournament June 9. The Company won the tournament 4-1 in a best of seven competition against the ‘Shadow Brigade.’ They are: (from left to right) Robbie Gillaspie, Ethan Souder, Jeff Blake, Scott Gillaspie, Mark Andrews, Ken Gallagher and Mike Taylor. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jason Barebo)

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- After several delays and weather cancellations, the Whiteman Paintball Field finally hosted its grand opening June 9.

Named Area 509, the field hosted an inaugural tournament with Northrop-Grumman boasting a seven-man team, 'The Company,' and the remaining players, hailing from different squadrons, were melded to form a second team, the 'Shadow Brigade.'

Playing in a best-of-seven style tournament, The Company hounded the Shadow Brigade gaining a quick match lead of 3-0. However, the Shadow Brigade's spirit could not be broken. The team pulled together and stole a win in game four, taking out all opponents and losing one man in the battle.

Game 5 ended in a grand firefight, with 'The Company' taking out five players and losing only four themselves, skimming a fourth win over the Shadow Brigade and winning the tournament 4-1.

The idea of Area 509 began four years ago, but was put on hold due to mission essential priorities.

This year, however, Brig. Gen. Greg Biscone, 509th Bomb Wing commander, Col. Eric Single, 509th BW vice commander, and Chief Master Sgt. Vicki Orcutt, 509th BW command chief, provided heavy support of the project and were committed to making Area 509 operational, said Lt. Col. Jeffrey Johnson, 509th Medical Operations Squadron commander.

"Whiteman leadership has given us tremendous support for Area 509," he said. "we have also had great response from the community through volunteering and donations."

With $12,000 provided by the 509th Services Squadron for equipment and more than 700 volunteer man-hours the dream of a paintball field at Whiteman developed into a reality.

"We have almost 5,000 acres of land to use, so we asked the Mission Support Group to find a place to put it and they did," General Biscone said. "We had a pretty narrow timeframe to get Area 509 going in time for spring. Exercises and weather slowed the process down a little, but everyone involved pulled together and built a great field."

"This field will serve multiple functions," Colonel Johnson said. "Area 509 provides an alternative activity to the base community at a reasonable cost.

"In addition, paintball is quickly becoming a training method of choice for security forces, civil engineers and others to provide a more realistic combat environment. It foster's teamwork and facilitates a player's cognitive reasoning skills," he said.

Paintball also provides another sporting event to those who may not be as interested in golf, softball, football or soccer Colonel Johnson said.

"Anyone can play paintball," said Ken Briles, Outdoor Recreation director. "All you need is the equipment, proper safety gear and you are set to come out to Area 509 and play."

"There is skill involved in paintball," said Ken Gallagher, Northrop-Grumman director of support, services and site manager. "However that doesn't stop a new player from taking out a seasoned veteran in a fire fight. A lot of it is being in the right place at the right time. Knowing where and when is part of the skill involved. That comes with time."

There are currently several plans in place to improve the field and add new play areas.

"We currently have two fields playable," said Colonel Johnson. "Right now our plans are to solidify and finalize those fields and then revamp and complete the B-2 shaped speedball course."

Plans are also in work to incorporate more than 5,000 sandbags used during the conventional operational readiness inspection into a prisoner of war compound for scenario games.

"Every time we play, we continuously find new ways to improve our existing courses to make them better and more challenging," the colonel said. "We have formed a special interest group dedicated solely to the operation and improvement of Area 509."

"It is important to me to have this outlet," General Biscone said. "We appreciate all the help that different organizations have given in the ways of volunteer hours and donations."

"I want everyone to have fun using this field," the general added. "Outdoor recreation has all the equipment and safety gear people need to come out here and have fun."

"Area 509 is now operational and constantly being improved," said Mr. Briles. "Soon we are going to start up intramural games between squadrons and in the future may even host some scenario games using all of the fields we have.

"This field is open to anyone who has access to the base," he added. "People can sign their friends and family on base to come out here and play paintball."

Currently the field is available for open play on Saturdays 9 a.m. - 2 p.m. Field reservations and equipment rental are also available at outdoor recreation.

The next tournament will be the Doc Pappy J Farewell Tournament July 7. The 7-man team tournament will be $35 per team, plus any equipment needed. Game play will be triple elimination and begin at 9 a.m.

Registration begins at 7:30 a.m. All registration and equipment preparation, to include chronograph checks, must be completed prior to 9 a.m. For more information, call 687-5565.