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Trent Lake, crouching in front, and fellow Sailing and Outdoor Recreation Center employee Johnny Devlin, moving to join Lake behind a larger barrier, take cover in firing mode Thursday at Sasebo Naval Base’s new paintball range.
Trent Lake, crouching in front, and fellow Sailing and Outdoor Recreation Center employee Johnny Devlin, moving to join Lake behind a larger barrier, take cover in firing mode Thursday at Sasebo Naval Base’s new paintball range. (Greg Tyler / S&S)
Trent Lake, crouching in front, and fellow Sailing and Outdoor Recreation Center employee Johnny Devlin, moving to join Lake behind a larger barrier, take cover in firing mode Thursday at Sasebo Naval Base’s new paintball range.
Trent Lake, crouching in front, and fellow Sailing and Outdoor Recreation Center employee Johnny Devlin, moving to join Lake behind a larger barrier, take cover in firing mode Thursday at Sasebo Naval Base’s new paintball range. (Greg Tyler / S&S)
Trent Lake, right, and fellow Sailing and Outdoor Recreation Center employee Melvin Brook align themselves to move in on an opposing team at the new Sasebo paintball range.
Trent Lake, right, and fellow Sailing and Outdoor Recreation Center employee Melvin Brook align themselves to move in on an opposing team at the new Sasebo paintball range. (Greg Tyler / S&S)
Sailing and Outdoor Recreation Center employee Johnny Devlin, having climbed on top of a barrier measuring about six feet high, aims his paintball marker.
Sailing and Outdoor Recreation Center employee Johnny Devlin, having climbed on top of a barrier measuring about six feet high, aims his paintball marker. (Greg Tyler / S&S)

SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan —- Paintballers here no longer have to suffer a five-hour drive to Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni’s paintball facility to “get their splat on,” thanks to a new Morale, Welfare and Recreation department range next to the Sakibe Laydown Facility.

Sasebo’s MWR recently acquired space 77 by 55 yards for the new range. Seabees built wooden obstacles used during competitions, said Walter Birkenheier, manager of MWR’s Sailing and Outdoor Recreation Center.

The range, which operators plan to expand to 109 by 66 yards, is about three miles from the main gate next to the Sakibe facility, home of Assault Craft Unit 5, Sasebo Detachment.

“There’s a lot of interest in paintball in Sasebo,” said Trent Lake, range manager and an avid paintballer.

“Most who like to play come from ship crews, making it tough to organize play during weekdays because of their work hours.”

While strolling the range, he said crowds often comprise about 20 players.

Teams typically include five players, each with a paintball marker and hopper containing 200 shots filled with white, water-soluble paint, Lake said.

“Even though they resemble shoulder-fired rifles, the correct name is ‘marker’ since they propel paintballs to mark opponents. They aren’t ‘guns,’ ” he said.

Birkenheier and Lake said the game is a low-cost, fun alternative to off-base bar visits and excessive drinking.

“With paintball, they just have a blast and don’t wake up with a terrible hangover,” Birkenheier said.

Players must wear long sleeves and pants. Markers are calibrated so the velocity of paintballs remains less than 300 feet per second.

“Making sure play is as safe as possible is the biggest thing we strive for,” Lake said.

Contests range from five-member teams trying to capture a flag to one-on-one combat. Characterized by flat land and portable obstacles, Sasebo’s range is designed for “speedball,” as opposed to the ambush style played in wooded areas.

Paintball is among the Sasebo Captain’s Cup events.

Each year, the base commander awards athletes and teams who have consistently performed with excellence in most of the intramural sports.

“We just need to compile a list of teams from ships and other commands. Then, we can go from there to tournaments,” Lake said. “We’re excited to see the possibilities for this sport in Sasebo.”

Range hours are 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sundays. MWR offers the full four hours on the range, a marker, 200 paintballs, protective masks and other gear for $25.

For more details about using the range at other times, call Birkenheier or Lake at DSN 252-3500.

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