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Service members, civilians play medieval war in Anchorage park
Military members and civilians in various combinations including medieval clothing do battle with foam swords during a Lupine Moon meeting at Russian Jack Park in Anchorage, Alaska June 16. More than 50 people participated at the Amtguard grouping, which also includes various crafts such as chain mail knitting, with approximately one in five military. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Robert Barnett)
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Service members, civilians play medieval war in Anchorage park

Posted 6/21/2012   Updated 6/21/2012 Email story   Print story


by Staff Sgt. Robert Barnett
JBER Public Affairs

6/21/2012 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Like a scene out of the movie Braveheart, troops stand in two lines, facing each other and separated only by a vast field of grass.

All carry weapons of some kind, whether swords or shields, knives or daggers. A few carry bows and arrows or crossbows. Many wear various leather and metal armor. All wear colored headbands to identify their allegiance.

The yell to charge is given, and the lines scream battle cries as they race towards each other. Swords clash and many quickly fall victim to stab wounds or lost limbs. Arrows pierce through the air and many connect with their targets. Thrown daggers catch many off guard who paid too much attention to the arrows.

The scene on the battlefield is a chaotic massacre. Leaders soon call strategic retreats to form their troops into squads with squad leaders. The squad leaders quickly collect intelligence on how the enemy is attacking and where their weak areas are, and then assign their squad members accordingly.

The strikes begin again, this time surrounding a castle. Now the archers are valued more than ever and additional troops guard them as they fire into the mass and deal extensive death tolls. Squads strategically surround individual enemy combatants whose skill level, regardless how experienced, is simply overcome.

What's missing is the blood and gore. While much of the armor is real leather and metal, the swords and other melee weapons are made of at least two inches of closed-cell foam with fiberglass cores.

The bows are real, but the arrowheads are also padded. Nothing is designed to cause serious injury. The castle consisted of four portable walls approximately four feet tall. Everything is relatively safe and legal.

Army Staff Sgt. Dara Wolff makes sure of it. Part of her job within the medieval-styled group called Lupine Moon is to ensure that all legal waivers are signed.

In her real life, Wolff serves on the Fort Richardson side of Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in the Troop Health Clinic of the medical detachment command as a medical lab noncommissioned officer.

Wolff is a member of Amtguard, a nonprofit organization that combines medieval fantasy role-playing with live-action combat. Lupine Moon is the Amtguard group in Anchorage.
"Today we have about 50 or 60 people that were actively participating," said Wolff.

The Three Barons fair acted as a recruiting system for organizations like Lupine Moon or the Society for Creative Anachronism, she said.

Amtgard is an international organization, she said.

"Pretty much anywhere you go there's going to be an Amtgard group," she said. "This one is Lupine Moon, and we also have one in Fairbanks. When we were in San Antonio, we belonged to one called Celestial Springs down there."

Members of all branches of military service, active duty, guard and reserve are welcome to participate in an Amtgard community, she said.

While the fighting is safe and fun, much more is offered.

"You learn crafts; you see a lot of people wearing armor and a lot of the people make their own stuff," she said. "Chain mail, things like that. I know some people that are deployed right now that have made a lot of their own stuff."

Amtguard is a community that supports the military. One in five people in their group are in the military, she said.

"We send care packages out periodically for our deployed members," Wolff said. "They sent us pictures and those are posted on our website and Facebook page to communicate that way and keep their spirits up until they come home. We've shown up early to see them off when they deployed; we had 10 or 15 of us signed in on base, hanging out at the motor pool to send them on their way."

Amtguard groups normally stay within easy access of bases, she said.

"They are pretty close by military bases," Wolff said. "You can get hold of somebody and we have prime ministers that handle a lot of the public affairs stuff. Just like SCA or some of the other things, we do have kingdoms, princes, prime ministers, leadership area stuff like we have out today. You see people doing different things."

It's for fun, but it's also an opportunity to practice team and social dynamics, she said.
"This is a chance for people who are not terribly socialized to come out and be like 'this is really weird, I am dressed up like a barbarian' when in real life I'm a nurse or something," Wolff said. "You come here, you get to do something different and you get to work with different people. You have all ethnicities and all degrees of capability."

Both singles and families can join in.

"Our daughter is out here today," she said. "She's drawing and usually plays with the kids.

"Kids are not allowed to fight with an adult until they are 15 and have a parent's signature; we keep that on record so it's waivered and everything."

To participate doesn't require being physically fit, she said. It's also available to people with special needs.

"We do have some personnel that have disorders and challenges. We have somebody that comes out periodically that's blind; he's one of our healers," she said. "He wears a special sash so people don't hit him, but he comes in the back and heals people, he does the 'spells.'

"It gives everyone a chance to come out and visit," she said.

Meetings are held at the south side of Russian Jack Park by the tennis courts Saturdays at noon.

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