Friday, September 26, 2008

Female Friendly Military Uniforms: A Boon for the Airsoft Gaming World?

Will Spain’s defense minister’s promise of a female friendly redesign of their army uniforms issued to women enlistees be a boon to airsoft female players when airsoft supply shops start to stock them?

By: Vanessa Uy

Starting Thursday, September 4, 2008 military uniforms in Spain will get a female friendly redesign for women enlistees, the Spanish defense minister Carme Chacon said on Wednesday. Chacon was the first woman to fill the position has promised to change the uniforms to better suit “female body shapes”. “Men and women have the same rights, but they have a totally different physical make-up,” Chacon said during a meeting with dozens of women soldiers. “The uniforms should be changed to meet women’s needs,” the minister said.

The new uniforms will be designed to fit “women’s chest, hips and waistlines” better, the Spanish daily El Mundo said Thursday. The defense ministry says that the uniform redesign will be based on a recent study from the country’s ministry of health, which measured the body types of thousands of Spanish women. By the way, the Spanish armed forces did not start to admit women until 1988. The number of women in Spain’s military currently reaches 15,400 out of a total strength of 79,000.

It’s quite surprising that Spain spearheaded the program to design military uniforms specifically aimed for long-term comfort for women serving in the Spanish armed forces. Despite the burden of being the universally accepted stereotype of Spain being known as the spiritual and ancestral home of chauvinism (not to mention The Inquisition), it is quite refreshing that Spain is the first ever country to tackle this “relatively esoteric” issue. Esoteric to me because Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin never talked about the issue of female-friendly military uniforms publicly, not even on Saturday Night Live. Whether it is an effect of the spirit of EU egalitarianism manifesting itself or otherwise, the move is quite refreshing. But the female-friendly uniform design will undoubtedly revolutionize not only the world’s military, but also will trickle-down to law enforcement agencies.

Also, will airsoft clubs be not so far behind since women players over 14 are finding out that battle dress uniforms – even expensive ones that are currently standard issue to the US military – are not exactly designed with women’s long-term comfort in mind. This might kick-start the formation of an all women airsoft team, which just over a year ago seems almost inconceivable. Will female-friendly ballistic armor vests / body armor / bulletproof vests be offered soon?

Monday, September 8, 2008

The International Red Cross Emblem: Off Limits in Airsoft?

Ever since the high-profile rescue operation of Ingrid Betancourt from her FARC captors, a legal row erupted over the misuse of the Red Cross symbol. Does this now include Airsoft military-simulation game scenarios?

By: Vanessa Uy

Ever since that dramatic hostage-rescue operation of former Columbian Green party presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt together with 14 other hostages from their FARC captors became headline news back in July 2, 2008, a somewhat relatively esoteric aspect of international law also gained headline news exposure. Namely the law about prohibiting the misuse of the International Red Cross’ Red Cross emblem.

The Columbian Military’s use of the Red Cross emblem in Operation Jaque as a rouse to rescue Columbian-French politician Ingrid Betancourt constitutes as a “war crime” under the Geneva Convention and international humanitarian law. That specific stunt could endanger humanitarian workers in the future according to international legal expert Mark Ellis, executive director of the International Bar Association. According to Ellis: “It is clear that the conventions are very strict regarding use of the symbol because of what it represents: impartiality and neutrality”.

The International Committee of the Red Cross - or Comité International de la Croix-Rouge as the ICRC is known in the Francophone world - was founded by Jean Henri Dunant in Geneva, Switzerland back in 1864. Jean Henri Dunant also founded the Geneva Convention and is also a Nobel Peace Prize laureate in 1901. As a neutral spectator at the Battle of Solferino in Italy on June 24, 1859, Dunant witnessed first hand the horrors of war. When at the day’s end, the battleground was littered with some 40,000 dead and wounded victims of the conflict. Horrified by the suffering of the unattended men, Dunant organized groups of volunteers to serve them. Brought supplies for the soldiers’ use, and worked personally as attendant and nurse. His experience of the war has made him decide to form a humanitarian organization, which will later become the International Committee of the Red Cross.

A few years later, Dunant finally managed to organize a meeting in Geneva, Switzerland in August 8 – 22, 1864 attended by official delegations of European nations. At this meeting the Geneva Convention of 1864 for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick of Armies in the Field was adopted and signed by 12 of the nations represented. Thus, the Red Cross was born. In honor of Dunant’s nationality, a “red cross on a white background” – the Swiss flag with the colors reversed – was chosen as the symbol.

A group of prominent Swiss citizens who were instrumental in arranging the Geneva meeting became organized as the International Committee of the Red Cross. It’s functions include the recognition of new national Red Cross societies; working for the development and observance of international humanitarian agreements – especially the Geneva conventions. Acting as a neutral intermediary in time of war or internal strife to ensure the victims of such conflicts of protection and assistance; and in particular serving the welfare of prisoners of war, making appropriate recommendations for ameliorating their condition.

In 1867 the first International Red Cross Conference was held in Paris. Regular meetings of this highest deliberative body of the Red Cross are held normally once every four years. Its membership is composed of representatives of the national societies, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the League of Red Cross Societies, and the governments that are signatory to the Geneva Conventions. The humanitarian effort of the International Committee of the Red Cross has earned them scores of accolades. The ICRC has won a number of times the Nobel Peace Prize, in 1917, in 1944, and in 1963.

As a prestigious humanitarian organization, the ICRC is very serious with regards to the issue of misuse of the Red Cross emblem. Over the years, there are incidences of violation of this relatively esoteric legal issue. Like the ICRC ‘s pending legal dispute over a multinational drug company who insists of using the Red Cross emblem as a “mere” branding logo of it's products. Also, Back in the mid-1980’s, the Philippine National Red Cross threatened to sue Tommy Tanchanco – founder of the long-defunct Philippine punk rock record label called Twisted Red Cross (TRC) – in court for using the International Red Cross emblem on his TRC products and tapes. Tommy, being a son of an influential ex-government minister, just brushed the threat aside. After all every Twisted Red Cross or TRC punk rocker knows that the TRC record label logo is actually a red colored “X” set over a white circle as background.

In the Airsoft world, there seems to be a “tacit compliance” with regards to the proper use of the Red Cross emblem that managed to permeate globally in airsoft military simulation games. Every team I’ve witnessed first hand so far, even those from far away who posted their Airsoft gaming activities on the web – either via still photos or YOUTUBE – had never misused the International Red Cross symbol. In my place, players with medical degrees or has a medical profession often volunteer as ad hoc medics / "Corpsmen" during Airsoft military-simulation games don’t wear ICRC armbands. Is this just because ICRC armbands are well-regulated commodities? Not even lapel pins designating what kind of Medical Corps they belong to. For all intents and purposes some of them probably belong to the Veterinary Corps.

Humor aside, it seems that the global Airsoft gaming community – so far – has been tacitly policing themselves with regards to the proper use of the Red Cross emblem in military simulation games. I just hope that it stays this way for years to come. But to be sure, I’m doing my part of spreading awareness on the proper use of the Red Cross emblem. If you’re reading this, please kindly spread the message to your local Airsoft gaming community.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Are Airsoft Gas Blowback Guns Earth-Friendly?

Despite their relatively high operational cost compared to Auto Electric Gun-type Airsoft weapons systems, are gas blowback Airsoft-type guns using CFC / Freon-based propellants harmful to our planets still-recovering ozone layer?

By: Vanessa Uy

Even though they can cost several times to run / maintain and on rare occasions repair than your more common battery-operated Auto Electric Gun or AEG-type Airsoft weapons systems, Gas blowback Airsoft-type guns still enjoy widespread popularity. Maybe its due to the fact that when they fire, they resemble uncannily like a real gun firing – i.e. their charging handle and ejection port moves like the real thing every time you pull the trigger. After seeing gas blowback Airsoft versions of the Heckler and Koch MP5 or the M-14 assault rifle in action with the charging handle rocking back and forth rapidly when fired from a full auto mode, it can be quite hard to resist the urge to buy one despite the caveats.

Though still relatively rare in the infantry weapons, sub machinegun side of the replica gun universe, gas blowbacks reign supreme in the handgun / side-arm world of Airsoft gaming. Not only because – at present – only a gas blowback mechanism is capable of mimicking the slide recoil action of semi-automatic pistols, but also because some models sound like a real .22 caliber semi-automatic pistol when they fire. Piston and gear assemblies that power AEG-type Airsoft guns has not yet been made small enough to fit snugly inside replica semi-automatic pistols. Not even for a relatively large handgun like a Colt Series 70. But before we assess the ozone-damaging effects of gas blowback Airsoft-type weapons systems, let us examine first their history.

Back in the 1970’s when the gas blowback Airsoft military simulation game “craze” began in Japan, the gamers use Freon-12 or R-12 CFC-based refrigerant gas. A gas that will be deemed illegal by law in the following years due to it’s ozone-depleting properties. And besides, Freon-12 / R-12 refrigerant gas is a relatively expensive gas just to be vented into the atmosphere just to propel a 6mm plastic BB pellet at more than 300 feet per second. Not to mention that a single molecule of Freon-12 / R-12 or similar CFC-based refrigerants was proven in several scientific studies to destroy 10,000 individual ozone molecules. This spells bad news for the ozone layer.

Contemporary 21st Century gas blowback Airsoft guns utilize a much ozone-friendly (we’re told) gas known commonly on the Airsoft gaming market by its trade name of “green gas”. Green gas – usually sold under pressure in gas cylinders – consists of a mixture of propane, poysiloxane lubricant, and HFC-134a. Green gas is usually used on gas blowback Airsoft guns whose muzzle velocity hovers around 300 to 400 feet per second. When an Airsoft enthusiast upgrades his or her gas blowback weapons system to enable to fire those 6mm plastic BB s faster than 450 feet per second, he or she must switch to a different kind of gas called “red gas”.

Red gas is a trade name of the gas used by Airsoft enthusiast to “power” their gas blowback weapons systems after upgrading the muzzle velocity specs. Red gas consists of a mixture of HCFC-22, carbon dioxide and nitrogen / high-pressure air. Red gas usually reserved to be used only in upgraded Airsoft gas blowback guns because the gas has a relatively high critical pressure, which can cause damage to the slides and bolts of an unmodified gun.

When it comes to the environmental impact of green gas, the refrigerant component of it - HFC-134a – was developed as a less ozone damaging replacement for Freon-12 / R-12. But this resulted in increased electricity consumption in refrigerators / air-conditioning units because HFC-134a is a less efficient / lower specific heat rated refrigerant compared to Freon-12. Fortunately, it takes more carbon dioxide molecules to cause climate change than Freon-12 molecules to destroy the ozone layer so the efficiency issue of HFC-134a can be viewed as an acceptable compromise.

While the refrigerant component of red gas – HCFC-22 – was also developed as a less ozone damaging replacement for Freon-12 / R-12 and is a more efficient refrigerant than HCF-134a. HCFC-22 is somewhat notorious for being a better greenhouse gas compared to carbon dioxide because it has a higher specific heat rating. HCFC-22 use was banned for refrigerant use toward the end of the 1990’s for fears that it might exacerbate the progress of global warming.

Despite the environmental concerns based on the chemical properties of the gases used in Airsoft gas blowback guns, the red gas component HCFC-22 and the green gas component HFC-134a poses only a minimal degree of threat to the ozone layer using data of the studies done in the 1990’s. HCFC-22 and HFC-134a easily degrades compared to the Freon-12 / R-12 that they replaced. And when the newer refrigerants chemically break down in the ozone layer under intense ultraviolet spectrum exposure, they won’t break down as many ozone molecules as they degrade in our planet’s ozone layer compared to Freon-12 / R-12. Also, they are relatively expensive so widespread use is not much of an issue. If this bothers you, there are always those cheaper battery operated AEG guns. Which you can chose to recharge via wind or solar photovoltaic generated electricity.

Sino-Indian War Airsoft Military Simulation Games

Underwriting your Airsoft team’s first ever Sino-Indian War military simulation games is a lot easier now than you might think. The question now is wether to chose the historically accurate 1962 version or Gene Roddenberry’s?

By: Vanessa Uy

Given the increasing plethora – not to mention affordability - of Airsoft gaming props like Battle Dress Uniforms (BDU s) and accessories like body armor modeled after the one’s used by the US Army in their operations in Iraq. Especially ones colored for camouflage in an urban battlefield has become quite similar to those used in Gene Roddenberry's “apocryphal” escalation of the Sino-Indian War or S-I War on his Earth: Final Conflict TV series. Now makes underwriting your Airsoft team’s own S-I War military simulation games much easier now compared to 10 years ago. But first let’s examine the options on which version of the S-I War we’ll be re-creating since technically there’s already three of them. There’s the historically accurate one that’s documented on that famous Indian patriotic film titled “Haqeeqat”. Then there’s Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek version where the genetically enhanced revolutionary named Khan Sing avenges “Nehru’s Shame” – i.e. the 1962 Sino-Indian War. And the third is Gene Roddenberry’s Earth: Final Conflict version of the S-I War. Where the United States was dragged into a renewed Sino-Indian War of the early 21st Century before the benevolent Taelons race arrival from space. But since the real historical version is somewhat less familiar to the wider world compared to Gene Roddenberry’s “literary embellished” version, I’ll only explain the historically accurate version of the Sino-Indian for the benefit of the uninitiated.

According to “official” historical records, the Sino-Indian War – also known as the Sino-Indian Border Conflict – was a war between the People’s Republic of China and India that started in October 10, 1962 and ended in November 21, 1962. The initial cause of the war was a disputed region of the Himalayan border in Arunachal Pradesh, known in China as South Tibet. The relatively minor inter-border skirmishes didn’t reach into a full-scale war until October 20, 1962 between the People’s Liberation Army and the Military of India.

The first heavy engagement of the war was started by a Chinese attack on an Indian patrol north of the McMahon Line. The fighting eventually spread to the region of Aksai Chin in which the PRC ’s party functionaries at that time regarded as a strategic link that’s navigable via the China National Highway route G219, between Chinese-administered territories of Tibet and the ethnic-Muslim populated province of Xinjiang.

The war ended when the Chinese captured both disputed areas and unilaterally decided a cease-fire on November 20, 1962, which went into effect at midnight. The Sino-Indian War was notable for the harsh conditions, under which much of the fighting took place, entailing large-scale combat altitudes of over 4,267 meters (14,000 feet). This presented numerous logistical problems for both sides.

The aftermath of the war saw sweeping changes in the Indian Military to prepare it for similar conflicts in the future, and placed undue political pressure on India’s then prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, who was seen as responsible for failing to anticipate the Chinese Invasion. The battlefront was located at North - East Frontier Agency and Aksi Chin. Even though the Chinese won, this resulted in the subsequently withdrawal to pre-war positions. Those who died during the Sino-Indian War include 1,460 Chinese troops compared to the 3,128 Indian soldiers that were killed. On the Chinese side, only 569 of their PLA troops were wounded compared to 1,697 Indian soldiers. Troops captured by the Chinese included 3,123 Indian soldiers, while India captured none of their Chinese adversaries. For all intents and purposes, the Sino-Indian war is a one-sided war favoring China. Yet many in the West saw it as a police action launched by Chairman Mao against His Holiness, The Fourteenth Dalai Lama of Tibet and the Tibetan government-in-exile in Dharmsala, India. Thus making Tibet’s spiritual leader, one of the world’s best loved “resistance fighter” albeit in a pacifist way.

While Haqeeqat, the famous Indian patriotic film about the 1962 Sino-Indian War, typifies the Indian Military’s resolve of not giving up their cause of maintaining India’s sovereignty against overwhelming odds by choosing to die in battle instead of surrendering their territory to China. The main plot of Haqeeqat centers on a small platoon of Indian soldiers in the hilly terrain of Ladakh. The soldiers were considered dead when they failed to contact their Combat Information Center to update their present status. They were rescued eventually by the local Ladakhi tribesmen and by Captain Bahadur Singh (played by the Indian actor Dharmendra). The small platoon are then asked to retreat from their post (chowky) as an overwhelming hordes of Chinese troops have already surrounded them. Captain Bahadur Singh and his girlfriend Almo (played by Indian actress Priya Rajvansh) both died in a firefight to hold the advancing Chinese troops at bay so that their fellow comrades can fall back to safety. Despite their heroic efforts, the retreating platoon of Indian soldiers are eventually caught between a rock and a hard place situation and instead resorted to fighting the advancing Chinese PLA troops. Eventually giving up their lives for their country.

Despite becoming India’s de facto patriotic film, to me, Haqeeqat has subtle Left-leaning views. Especially the part when Captain Singh’s girlfriend Almo willingly chose to die in defense for her country was included in this movie and was not cut-out by Indias board of film censors at the time. This despite of India being a staunchly patriarchal society – even till this day. Was Mahatma Gandhi’s message of “equality” still fresh in 1962 period India? But anyway, you should make effort to at least try to see Haqeeqat since DVD s of it are already advertised all over the Internet. The movie is really that good. I just hope that Hollywood will do a remake of this that’s as good as the 1965 Indian version.

While ad hoc props for an Airsoft military simulation game based on Gene Roddenberry’s somewhat futuristic version of the Sino-Indian War are widely available in just about any Airsoft shops around the world. Those infantry weapons / small arms props used in the historically real 1962 Sino-Indian War movie Haqeeqat is somewhat hard to obtain. Airsoft versions of the infantry weapons / small arms that were probably used during the 1962 Sino-Indian War like the BREN light machine gun, various WWII-era British sub machineguns, Lee Enfield SMLE s, and the M-3 Grease Gun are few and far between in our place. Though old style Kalashnikovs (AK-47 s) are a dime-a-dozen, FN FAL s with wooden inlays the type that are just fielded during the end of the 1950’s are virtually impossible to find. Plus, most of the Airsoft enthusiasts in our area are ethnic Chinese while only a few pass- muster as Indian troops. And even those that somewhat do look more like Singhalese IT billionaires than Indian soldiers. Especially when wearing an Indian military Dafadar’s uniform. Though hard to undertake, Airsoft military simulation games based on the real 1962 Sino-Indian War are very interesting though rare undertakings nonetheless.