Interview: Rich Norman
One of the IG accounts that I never dither over, in terms of the like button, is Red Group.
That’s not just because their social media is on point, but because front man Jon is so personable, professional and downright awesome – as you can tell fro this interview…
Jon – welcome to The Reptile House and thanks very much for the interview opportunity! Tell me about Red Group…
Thanks Rich! It’s truly an honor to be able to showcase our team on such a reputable and respectable platform – hopefully we do it justice with this interview.
Red Group is an impression-based team and we primarily do 75th Ranger Regiment kits in the 2017+ era. One could say “modern,” but “modern” as we’ve come to find can encompass a wide range of years. So, for semantics sake, we say modern, but really it’s based on 75th ranger kits in the 2017-2018 era.
How did you start out?
Funny enough, when Dennis and I decided to officially create a team 7 years ago, we made it a point to not look too much like any particular military unit and totally freestyled our kits – down to building our own rigs to fit our needs. We even had a discussion about switching from Marpat to Multicam and decided against it because we hated the look.
So, naturally we chose to call our team Regular Guys. The first game we attended as a team was a MilSim op hosted by Spear Group, and the name Regular Guys fit us as we didn’t have a clue what people were saying half the time, but had a blast and became regulars.
Naturally then, the next step would be to attend a national op and we considered Lion Claws as our first, but our buddy Brooks approached us after a game one day and said we had to try a MILSIM WEST game. So, Dennis and I attended our first MSW game, Road to Rostov, and it was an unbelievable experience. We had dug a hole and sat in it about 80% of the time, almost got trampled by a herd of cows in our sleep, and woke up so cold that we couldn’t even talk on account of our teeth chattering so badly.
But, we were hooked. Unfortunately, Dennis and the rest of the guys became busy with life, so I attended the next 5-6 games solo with the hopes of one day going as a full squad.
Enter Red Group (RG). Having seen the dynamics of how MSW works, I knew to be taken seriously, we had to be serious about our team. I had done my last two games with impression teams and started realizing that there was more to impressions than just looking cool. I got the guys together and proposed a change, not just in our name, but also how we approach airsoft.
Previously, we relied more on our own abilities and never implemented any tactics or bothered to learn the lingo, and we all knew that had to change. Hence our patch logo of a phoenix – Sterling actually came up with that, and it’s pretty genius in that we were reborn into Red Group. Cheesy, I know, but it holds meaning to us. And really, we haven’t been doing this impression thing as a team for that long (since July 2017), and we still need to work out some kinks.
But yeah, we came from humble beginnings and really try to portray that through our posts and gameplay.
How many of you are there?
There are currently 8 members: Jon (myself), Dennis, Josh, Sterling, Gil, Mike, James, and Group liaison Nick.
Where are you based?
We are based all around the Bay Area, but we list our location as San Francisco, California.
Nice city! Where does leadership come from within the team?
If you dub yourself the leader, are you really a leader? I think we all have our roles within the team and trust each other enough to execute those roles, whatever they may be for a particular op.
Think of it as, even if I make a bad decision, I trust my team enough to get us out of it.
It’s really interesting how so many teams I Interview have a similar approach.
Are there any specialties within the team?
Yes. Josh is pretty special. He’s Dennis’ little brother and we joke that he does everything Dennis does. We love you Josh! Ha ha, just kidding, he’s a super dude – I’d take him into a bbwar any day.
No specialties in this group, moving on…
I noticed you’re growing the brand; tell me about that decision…
Interestingly enough, we (RG) never really had intentions of growing in other regions or establishing chapters. We were just posting on our IG and hoping to get more exposure for our team and modern Ranger kits.
We had had a few people reach out to us about joining or expanding, but it wasn’t until Tom from Black Group approached us did we think anything of it. Tom was a special case though, because he had been doing Ranger kits forever. We even watched some of his videos detailing his kit so in our minds, adding him was a huge honor.
It was just a match made in heaven since he was starting up his own modern Ranger impression crew. We basically took a vote and gave him our blessing to start a new chapter. I think, for RG at least, as long as we can get people interested in another kit besides SEAL or CAG, it’s a win in our book.
Initially, franchising seemed like the way to go, but a member brought up a good point that for the sake of not having too many chapters too quickly, we should regionalize the teams: west, east, north, and south. We’re still working out the details so more to come.
Will you eventually go international like DEVTSIX?
This is a good question. I think our present goal, having acquired some additional guys across the US, is to eventually field a platoon of guys rocking modern Ranger kits, whether it is at MSW or AMS. In short, probably not. But, if we are approached by an international team really dedicated to the kit, who knows?
Which groups have been established so far?
So far we have Orange, Red, and Black that are within the Groups. Bronze and Blue are in the works. Let’s go Austin!!
And Grey pending the relocation of a member.
What are the standards expected of Red Group and the other Groups under the same banner?
To be honest, it’s pretty simple.
All we ask is that groups adhere to the standards of modern Ranger kits and grow their respective Group within the community; and to try not to fall into that gear snob attitude (which really sounds counterintuitive given we’re all impression based).
What’s the application process?
Show interest. Go through a probational period where we monitor your rep on social media (for chapters) or attend games with members (teams).
During the probation period, we don’t require teams or individuals to have their kit meet impression standards, but understand that to become a chapter/member, you have to ultimately meet kit requirements.
Tell me about the importance of values and attitudes in Red Group.
This is possibly the most important aspect of running an impression team because of all the stereotypes that already exist, especially when you’re just a bunch of regular guys who don’t have a military background, it’s about not taking yourself and airsoft too seriously and to have a good time.
How are the standards monitored and reinforced?
Each team is responsible for obtaining and keeping their members, I hate to use this word, but kosher. For RG specifically, we’ve created a patch system, that unless your kit meets the 90% completion standard, you are not a patched member.
That doesn’t mean you can’t attend ops with us or be a part of the team, but rather an additional incentive for one to acquire the proper items.
Good system. Are there other teams you respect with similar standards?
Oh yeah. We really followed Trumilsim, whom I think was the first big team to do a Ranger impressions justice. Also 9th Group, who did all sorts of impressions but always looked on point. These two were the ones we first referenced when building impressions.
Now as far as current teams, we love the media that DT6 Silver puts out; Rushing Russians for their camaraderie on the field and adding to the immersive atmosphere of games; and finally TFM (Task Force Mayhem) who probably set the standard for impression teams today – because how many teams have actual military members leading that specific military impression?
I really love the Ranger Eye logo you guys have – it’s bold, striking and easily recognizable. How did the design come about?
This was really the brainchild of Orange Group (OG), the chapter that was founded in our area and from where our name stems. They were the ones who actually got me into modern ranger and now we’re just happy to take it on to the national stage.
How you want the team to be perceived on social media?
This is a tough one because while we are a team, we’re still individuals, each with a unique personality. I don’t want to say I censor my guys, but I do discourage any type of troll posts ha ha.
On a more serious note, we want people to be able to ask us questions without feeling like they’re wasting our time or annoying us. I remember when I was first getting into impressions, I was afraid to ask questions because of any potential backlash.
I feel, as long as they’re being respectful and are truly interested, I don’t have a problem pointing them in the right direction. Whether they adhere to my advice is on them, but if they ask, I’m not going to turn them away. All RG members share the same sentiment or will just tell people to message me ha ha.
Just because we do impressions, we don’t want people to think we’re stuck up or unapproachable – we’re all pretty nice guys, maybe except for Nick, LOL. Don’t kill me Nick, HAHA.
I think for teams, being available and friendly goes a long way – available in the sense that because you have the experience/knowledge, if someone needs advice, you share it.
And of course, being friendly and approachable. We were there at one point in time, the non-impressionist seemingly being looked down upon by impressionists, for not having cool guy gear.
We are not about being condescending, so yes, being available and friendly.
You want the short answer or the long one? Let’s just go with they’re cool AF and they fit our personas as DA door kickers.
Are there any influential reference pics you’d like to share?
So many – let me go get my external hard drive dedicated to reference pics. Joking, but yes, I have some very iconic ones I’d love to share.
What’s your attitude to real and replica in loadouts?
It’s all the same. It’s airsoft. As long as it passes the squint test LOL, I’m good with it.
Impressions are hard enough to build as is so if you take away the hefty price tag, it becomes significantly more doable. To be honest, some of the replica gear out there is really well made and gets the job done for bbwarz.
I think this is where some stereotypes about impressionist are created, in thinking that they’re better just because their Crye’s are real.
But, to be fair, I always suggest using real gear unless it’s truly not within your budget.
Is there any piece of kit that’s iconically ‘Ranger’?
Yes. Block II’s and Overlord short gloves in khaki. You see those two items together, along with multicam BDUs, and 90% of the time it’s a Ranger; 9% an airsofter in a Ranger impression; and I left the 1% for the naysayers.
What kind of primaries are you guys shooting?
Block II’s, CQB-R Block II’s, Scar MK17’s, M110, and we just picked up a M249.
Impressionists are a funny breed, and I’ll probably get slightly off topic here, so bear with me.
When I first started researching Ranger kits, everyone and their mothers said Block II or you’re a farb (user of inaccurate kit items), so I went with it.
It wasn’t until I started seeing some CQB-R Block II’s did I reach out to the guru on DEVTSIX’s forum. His advice is something I will never forget and what I tell my guys now. What he said in short was this – the whole point of impressions is letting other impressionist know, without a shadow of doubt, the following: which impression, and if you’re really good, which era your kit is depicting.
And while using a CQB-R Block II is not farb, Ranger kits can be eerily similar to those of SF kits, and the Block II, along with several other items unequivocally scream Ranger kit.
So now I’ve stuck with the Block II but I have no problem letting some of my guys opt for the CQB-R Block II because in the end, they have to like what they’re using.
Out of the 8 team members, 4 use real steel sights. One even bought a RS EOTech 553 just for his airsoft gun so that he wouldn’t have to re-zero his 553 on his real gun (we have members that are active LEOs and those that shoot real steel).
Think of it this way, if you had the funds to afford the latest Jordan’s for basketball, or use some off brand shoe because they’re cheaper, which would you prefer? Maybe not the best analogy, but hopefully it gets my point across.
R’s items, especially sights, are worlds better than repro. How many of you use or have used your repro EOTechs as a mirror to apply face paint? I have. It can be that bad.
Ultimately it comes down to whether you have the means to buy the real stuff and if not, stop hating on those who can.
Thanks so much, Jon. Closing thoughts?
You know, I posted one of our early pictures in a FB group, half jokingly with the caption that went along the lines of “changing hearts and minds about impressionists.”
It was, in my mind, well received and to a certain degree, true. We’re just out here enjoying the game/hobby/sport, whatever you want to label it, while adding a level of immersion that we picked up from attending MSW games.
I mean, whether you wear Condor or Crye, we all have airsoft in common and as long as people keep that in mind, we should be able to get along. In the end, as Nick likes to remind us, “We’re are all just a bunch of nerds doing nerdy stuff.”