By Pfc. Adam Turner
1st Cavalry Division
FORT HOOD, Texas – Every Wednesday night, a group of First Team Soldiers come together for a little friendly game of paintball that has slowly, but surely developed into something much more.
For these 22 troopers from the 1st Cavalry Division, paintball embodies something more than just a fun, aggressive combat simulation. Respect, courage in the face of adversity, camaraderie, discipline and the ability to achieve a collective goal; are all things that they said make up their paintball team "Lethal Threat."
For the past four months Lethal Threat has been together, working to be the next great competitive paintball team in the business. In order to bring themselves up-to-par with their competitors, each member of 'Lethal Threat' surrendered their own time and dimes to keep this team's dream alive.
"We all must make sacrifices to be a part of this team," said Lethal Threat team captain Spc. Nicholas N. Hartwick, a Portland, Mich. native. "We are all from different [job skills], have different training schedules, we all come from different walks of life. So, we each have our own individual hardships, but we push those aside to make this dream a reality," he added.
For all of the differences they share, Lethal Threat members have the same goal; to become the first United States Army Paintball Team.
"The Marine Corps, Air Force, and Navy all have professional teams, we want to represent the Army and show the paintball world that the Army has every bit the same caliber [of service members] as our sister services, Hartwick said. "We want to have a yearly tournament against the other defense services, and show that our professionalism, and the Army values put us in a class all our own," he added.
The members of Lethal Threat know that in order to be the best at what they do, they must conduct themselves head and shoulders above the rest.
"If you want to be on this team, you have to show up with certain traits. We don't want playing experience, we need a player to share our collective attitude, and the paintball side will come with time," said co-assistant captain, Spc. Luke L. Martin, from Cheverly, Md.
"We want to lead by example, be professional on and off the paintball field, and show the Army how big of a recruiting tool we could be. That is our ultimate goal, to be a tool for the promotion of the Army life and Army values, and we cannot do that if we are not collectively doing the small things to be successful," said Hartwick.
"Discipline, you gotta have it, you can't come out to be on this team and not be disciplined," Martin added.
There are many intangibles that relate the Army and paintball to one another. Small arms fire, squad, buddy and individual movements, cover-fire, and most importantly communication between each individual on the field of battle or the field of play. So naturally, Soldiers can easily transition from the Army realm to the paintball field.
However, the members of Lethal Threat bring a little something extra to the team than just Army training.
"The most interesting thing you get to see with this team is when you get someone out here on the paintball field, you truly see who and what they are made of," said Martin. "You see things in certain people you wouldn't expect to see, whether it be bravery or toughness, they come out here and you're expecting one thing and you end up seeing their true personality come out, it's truly a special feeling when you're a part of that."
"Everyone must check their egos at the door," said Wheeling, W.Va. native Spc. Chas Anthony Marshall, co-assistant team captain. "It doesn't matter if you're an infantryman, scout, or mechanic. Regardless of how many deployments you've been on you have to be a team player and learn how to lead, and always remember how to follow."
Even after only a few months together Lethal Threat is showing promise in attitude and performance on the field. They have faced challenges from local teams and one professional team who they took to the limit, in a long drawn out battle resulting in seasoned players running out of ammunition before the end of the match.
"That's almost unheard-of , for a newly formed team to challenge professionals and take them out of their game and make them play ours ... we just wore them down and showed just what we are made of, it was just awesome," said Marshall.
The biggest message Lethal Threat wants to bring to the realm of paintball is having fun, being professional, and showing good sportsmanship and teamwork to a new generation of Soldiers.
"We could be a huge asset to the Army, just showing how we as Soldiers live, work, and play, all while having fun and being a voice for the Army is all we want to do. It's not about winning every tournament, it's about being good sports, recruiting for the Army, and most importantly being a team and having fun. That is what we are all about, and why we want to be the U.S. Army paintball team."