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‘Wounds’ from Saturday’s assignment are healing nicely

Last Saturday, I was covering an assault on the old Mercy Hospital when I was wounded by gunfire.

I took one round in the back and three in the left arm. Intrepid reporter that I am, I shrugged off my wounds and continued covering the assault. I went inside the building, carefully climbing the stairs to reach the third floor and eased into the hallway, already nursing the wound in my back I received outside the building.

As I entered the hallway, I could hear shouting and walked toward the noise. Along the way, I heard shots and felt the sting as rounds struck my arm in three places. I quickly took cover and heard more shots.

When the shooting died down I made a very tactical retreat outside the building and away from danger.

It’s Wednesday as I sit and write this column and the pain from my “wounds” has disappeared. I was shot, but in the spirit of full disclosure, I was hit by BBs, not bullets. And yes, I did cover an assault on the old Mercy Hospital.

It was an event called “Operation Bone Strike V,” put on by Third Coast Airsoft, a Norcross, Ga.-based company offering people the opportunity to participate in military-type experiences. The vacant Mercy Hospital building was the battleground where two teams, designated the Western Empire and the Eastern Empire, were involved in combat.

As TCA representative Chris “Snicks” Snickle, who served as my guide, explained, the activities conducted by TCA are objective-based. The opposing forces have certain objectives to meet during the simulation, like finding a water source or ammunition supply.

When the objective is reached, the team finding it locates an electronic monitor that is turned on and counts the length of time the team holds on to the objective. For every second they hold it, they score a point.

Snickle called Mercy Hospital “fantastic,” explaining the advantages for the participants.

The guns the participants use are air guns powered by either batteries or compressed air and I saw several people dressed in camo carrying backpacks containing air packs. The guns fire small, soft, biodegradable BBs. Airsoft weapons are replicas of real military weapons like the M-16, M-4 and AK-47. And while that BB may be “soft,” those suckers sting when they hit you, as I will testify from my experience.

And the articles of the Geneva Convention about shooting non-combatants (like the media) do not apply; take my word for it. For my safety, I was outfitted with a mesh mouth guard, safety glasses and a red bandanna and a red Glow Stick indicating I was wounded. And still the bullets flew.

I spent an enjoyable two hours roaming the grounds and interior of Mercy Hospital photographing and taking in the atmosphere of the event, which brought 350 people to Vicksburg. That’s 350 people who stayed in our hotels and ate in our restaurants. If I understood correctly, Bone Strike V marked the fifth time TCA has held an exercise here in Vicksburg. I hope it returns next year. 

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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