Interview: Rich Norman
Pics: Rick Rolled
Starting out as a group of friends – now a worldwide entity; Development Team Six is an International community of Special Operations enthusiasts.
DEVTSIX (DT6) is arguably the biggest and best geardo forum in the world. He won’t thank me for saying this, but we have one man in particular to thank for keeping it on track; and for maintaining the kit and conduct standards which many aspire to. And that’s not to mention his charitable work with the SOF veteran community.
I spoke to Rick Rolled about life at the helm of DT6, German photographers…and reverse google searches.
Rick Rolled (RR), welcome to the blog!
RR: Long overdue brother and thanks for taking the time to facilitate this interview. Your blog is definitely one of the hallmarks of our community!
Thank man! Many people will know DT6 as probably the most visited geardo forum in the world. Looking after that is a huge task, but that’s not all you do as I hope we’ll get onto later.
First of all, how did it all start?
RR: Development Team 6 (DEVTSIX or DT6) was started by my dear friend Jon K. in Slovenia in 2009. The initial idea was to launch the first NSW inspired MILSIM team in Slovenia and to create a platform where similar minded people across the globe could connect, share kits and provide advice. It was a different era for Airsoft/ Milsim.
The establishment of DT6 forum enabled the formation of two additional DT6 teams in 2010: “Canada Group 2” (being led by WeyFerro) and “US Group 3 Red Team” (being led by flectarn). I think I can speak for everyone involved with DT6 at that time that nobody expected DT6 to become a global MILSIM entity.
As far as my involved goes, I joined the forum in early-2010 and mainly lurked around, trying to find ideas about cool kits. Shortly afterwards (and unfortunately), the Slovenian and Canadian OG DT6 teams were disbanded; Jon focused on developing his professional career as a wedding photographer and WeyFerro started his own gear company – Ferro Concepts. As a result, DT6 was mainly being driven forward by the guys from the US based Group 3 Red Team (flectarn, SpecialOpsM4, etc.).
Since I recognised that the DT6 forum became a small-hub of Milsim enthusiasts and I didn’t want our platform to slowly fade away, I began managing the forum as well as speaking with more recognised members of the forum about starting other international branches of DT6. And this is what led to the establishment of DT6 as a global Milsim entity.
Jon – Happy Wedding Films:
When did the team franchising aspect happen?
RR: The “branding or franchising” has always been a part of an organic process as DT6 Groups are mainly formed through positive relationships within the Milsim community. A new Group will be added only if we feel it’s the right fit; it’s never about adding X amount of teams per year.
Initially, a new DT6 Group was created in the following way: we identified a group of cool dudes on DT6 forum or Facebook that had great NSW kits and were being positive forum members (for example by helping others by providing advice or sharing extensive knowledge on gear and various real world units). We would then simply invite them to start their own DT6 Group with our support.
Naturally, once the DT6 name gained some recognition, we started receiving requests from various other Milsim teams to join DT6. Nevertheless, the process remained the same – an established NSW team and positive attitudes. The only difference is that any new team must now receive unanimous approval from all DT6 Group team leaders.
Since then, some DT6 Groups were disbanded and some continue to thrive. I believe that every existing and former DT6 Group added an important mark in our trajectory and helped us become who we are today. There were some hiccups and setbacks along the way, but hey – we are all learning as we go.
We’re now thinking about expanding DT6 to other non-NSW teams and potentially a rebrand. We had this idea in 2012 with the International Milsim Association, but this unfortunately didn’t lead anywhere; even though we did manage to sign around 10 Milsim teams that were arguably some of the best at that point in time. So something like this might be resurrected.
How do you see DT6 today?
RR: Nowadays, I consider DT6 as two key entities:
The DT6 Groups, which are currently managed by Latro through assistance from each Group’s team leader.
The community aspect of DT6, which is managed by me.
For me this is what it was always about – to help grow the international Milsim community by leading by example, and to look for ways in which we can give back to the community that supports us as well as SOF related charity communities. As a whole, we may not be the most accurate NSW reenactors (that is why I prefer to refer to ourselves mainly as NSW enthusiasts; we do have true reenactors; i.e. Group 4, Group 11, Group 12), but in my opinion we have consistently had a positive overall impact on the global Milsim community (thinking about community giveaways, promoting non-DT6 teams and providing a forum based platform where people discuss gear, units, share kits, ideas, etc.) as well as being the only Milsim team that collaborated with renowned SOF charity communities such as the SEAL Future Fund, Navy SEAL Foundation and Lone Survivor Foundation to raise funds for both active and Veteran Navy SEALs and help support their ability to thrive in the civilian realm just as they did during their military careers.
This “community aspect of DT6” is what I cherish the most; I sometimes kid that we are just a bunch of grown men playing tactical dress-up and shooting plastic pellets at each other. I want to make a positive impact on the Milsim community. Some Milsimmers you see on Instagram are taking themselves way too seriously and try too hard to personify the oP3rAt0rZ as F*ck mentality. In my opinion, this is why Milsim tends to receive a lot of flak from the general public as well as former military personnel (just check the comments on some SOF Instagram pages) so there’s absolutely no need for a Milsim community that is hateful and spiteful towards itself. It is ultimately a hobby and people should have fun and try to support each other; to quote a member of our forum:
I think our community has remained so good thanks to all the knowledgeable and rather humble and serious individuals. I’m not claiming myself/us to be better than someone else or anything like that, but I really really do not want those occasional cancerous comments and flame wars on IG to get to this place, too.
I interviewed Silver Team recently and one of the many interesting things had to say was that DT6 sets very high standards for its operational groups.
RR: I don’t think we’re overall (looking at DT6 Groups as a whole) the most accurate NSW reenactors, although there are some DT6 Groups that are really pushing it with amazingly accurate kits (for example German Group 4, Thai Group 11 and French Group 12). We do have quality standards when it comes to NSW related gear, but I like the fact that each Group brings something slightly unique to the table, and is not just a copy/pasted generic DEVGRU kit. We have operational Groups across the world, so there are many socio-economic and cultural nuances among our Groups; which is great and refreshing!
We have tried standardisation of gear a few times, but it has never worked effectively. Some Groups attend many MILSIM events so totally accurate NSW “Direct Action” kits might not provide them with the opportunity to equip themselves appropriately for longer MILSIM events; so they run a NSW “inspired” kit as a mix of accurate NSW gear as well as other non-accurate gear, which they need to remain operational for 3-5 days. Whereas some Groups do not attend MILSIM events at all and just enjoy collecting rare gear and “re-enacting” specific DEVGRU teams in specific periods. Again, almost everything within DT6 happens organically and is very informal. All the major decisions are discussed and agreed by the individual Group team leaders in a dedicated Facebook group.
Once we accept a new DT6 Group they enter into a 6-monthly probation period, which is mainly to get to know the members of that Group. So far, we have not rejected any team during the probation period as we do good due diligence during the “application” process.
That is why I don’t really care about the 100% accuracy of a NSW kit; when we evaluate new teams we look for the potential to bring something unique to DT6 Groups and that the members are cool, positive and friendly guys. Nobody that is into MILSIM started with a 100% accurate kit full of Crye, LBT, S&S, etc. This is why (at least for me) the attitude and potential are the key two decisive factors when considering a new team to join DT6.
We have rejected some fairly accurate NSW MILSIM teams to join DT6 once we saw that the members of that particular team were spewing hateful comments towards others via IG. No matter how accurate your NSW kits are or how many followers you have on IG, we do not want to be associated with such people, period. As I’ve mentioned before, MILSIM community is already small as it is, so we should be able support each other, demonstrate positive attitudes and responsibility (which might also help improve the public image of airsoft/ MILSIM), and not facilitate poor behaviour. But I digress.
How many operational groups are there now, and where are they located?
RR: We currently have the following teams:
Americas: Group 3 Silver Team and Group 3 Gold Team
EMEA: Group 4 (Germany), Group 5 (Norway), Group 7 (Austria), Group 10 (Switzerland), Group 12 (France), Group 14 (Sweden), Group 15 (United Arab Emirates)
APAC based: Group 11 (Thailand)
We also had some interest from the UK (I spoke with Gray Fox team a few years ago); however, seeing no established NSW inspired MILSIM teams exist in the UK we have yet to add one.
What advice would you give teams who are thinking of applying to be a DT6 operational group?
RR: We are mainly looking for the overall potential and for positive attitudes. So, if you’re thinking about joining DT6 my advice is to:
- Do adequate research on NSW gear.
- Be patient with your progression.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
- Join our forum.
- Get in touch via IG/FB/DT6 forum (we like to provide advice even if you’re not interested in joining).
- Be a positive member of the global MILSIM community.
- Be responsible and understand how your behaviour might affect how other people see us.
We’re always looking for new cool NSW MILSIM teams out there, and as I’ve mentioned previously, we are thinking about expanding the DT6 brand outside of NSW kits. We’ll see what the time brings.
We’re a friendly bunch of dudes and will never look down on anyone. We all started somewhere right?
Tell me a bit about the projects you’ve undertaken in support of the Seal Future Fund and Lone Survivor foundation.
RR: Those are the two projects I’m most proud of as they both took a lot of effort. The most difficult part is to convince a renowned charity organisation that supports active and veteran Navy SEALs to collaborate with a bunch of guys playing tactical dress-up.
My viewpoint is that we should do even more to support the people we try to imitate. Whilst it’s cool to use reference photos as inspiration and read about the amazing missions SOF is involved in, we needn’t forget that these are real people that have put everything on the line to serve a country and its people; regardless of your political views, we need to be reminded that these people are truly committed to their jobs and are fundamentally trying to better the world. This is why organisations such as the Lone Survivor Foundation and SEAL Future Fund are so important. And even though we might not be the largest contributors, I think by showing support and the will to raise funds definitely reflects that the Milsim community can do good.
I hope that going forward we; as DT6, can do even more with various charity veterans’ groups and that other Milsim groups will follow our lead. In my opinion, just raising awareness for the need to support our veterans is doing something positive and really doesn’t require much effort.
You’ve also partnered with Semapo and Ferro?
RR: As mentioned earlier, the owner of Ferro Concepts is an OG DT6 member and an amazing skateboarder. We still have a tremendous amount of love for what he is doing with his company.
Riley from Ferro:
It’s great to see that he was able to evolve from producing the first AOR1 6094 replicas on the market to designing and manufacturing some really innovative pieces of gear that are being used by military and LE personnel, shooters, airsofters and dads globally. I mean who doesn’t love his tactical baby carrier haha:
I’m still proud of the mountain beanie and counter-weight pouch collab we did with him:
With regards to Semapo the story is unfortunately slightly different now. Back in 2013 we saw their gear as a bang-for-the-buck entry gear. Our relationship started with us providing advice to them on how to improve the accuracy of their gear. After we consolidated our relationship we were able to organise community giveaways. In total we gave away for free about $5,000 worth of gear to our community (7 NCPCs, 15 BDUs, 10 6094As, 7 1961s, …).
I am still grateful that Semapo were kind enough to provide this gear so that we could give it away for free. However, once they started becoming more popular we saw that the quality of their gear has declined. They also didn’t return some real items our Group members sent to them to replica. All of this lead us to part ways with them. We still wish them the best and we hope they return to their roots of producing quality repro gear.
I know you have enough anecdotes to earn a fair wedge as a milsim after-dinner speaker, but the one that really caught my attention was the GPNVG photo shoot…
RR: Yeah we were lucky enough to collaborate with some truly amazing people. Back in 2013 we were invited by MilPictures on behalf of a German L3 distributer to participate in a photoshoot with a tonne of super cool gear – PEQ15, PEQ16, PVS-15, GPNVG, ANVIS, etc. as well as some airsoft prototypes such as VFC MP7 and HK416 and HK417 GBB and a new version of the ARES Cheytac. The photoshoot took place over 2 days in an open WW1 museum in Austria. Most of the photos were taken during the night in the tunnels that were used during the war. It was a really cool experience and definitely one of my favourite memories. It’s pretty amazing to see yourself on a book/magazine cover or internet articles
You’ve talked a lot about the things you do for the community, but what about you? What do you get out of all this work you do?
RR: I’d say that what I’ve gotten out of it is some great relationships with some amazing people across the world. If I never were to involve myself with DT6 I would neither have met some great guys nor had an opportunity to help grow a global Milsim team and community. In the end, life is about making unique experiences and I think that being involved with DT6 has definitely brought me joy.
I still consider it a great privilege to see people from across the world wearing DT6 T-shirts or patches or have our stickers on their Pelican cases. The other day, artist Dan from Chilean IV Patrulla (dansketchy on Instagram; go follow him please) who did our Honoring the Brotherhood design for Lone Survivor Foundation, told me that he got a request for designing a shirt for Red Friday from a US company, based on us tagging him in an IG post.
For me, this was truly amazing to hear and makes me appreciate the community side of DT6 even more. It also reinforces my desire to drive our community-based efforts further each year. I want to see people collaborating and helping each other as this will in turn only strengthen the international Milsim community.
How’s your own loadout looking right now?
RR: I have sold all my gear back in 2013 in order to afford my MSc in London. I’m currently living in Brighton where there isn’t a great deal of good MILSIM events about. Maybe I’ll start collecting gear at some point in time, but I don’t see it happening soon. Luckily I do still have some very unique pieces of gear, such as never-seen legit DEVGRU and SBS patches, which I can’t unfortunately share.
So unfortunately I can only share how my gear looked at that point in time:
What are your favourite reference pics?
RR: My all-time favourite reference picture must be this:
What’s your position on the RS versus repro gear debate?
RR: We have about 60+ members globally; living in different countries and being in different walks of life, therefore, you can’t expect everyone to be able to afford real gear (Crye, LBT, S&S, EoTech, etc.). This is also the main reason why we have neither condemned the use of replica gear nor make fun of the people that do use replica gear (which is what unfortunately some more accurate Milsim teams tend to do quite regularly – I won’t name any teams, but I’m sure they know who they are).
Of course, we strive to reduce the amount of replica gear used; if anything to support the original manufacturers as they spend a lot of time and money for R&D and testing before launching their products onto the market. A lot of us (if not all) started with some shape or form of replica gear; however, once you start looking at awesome kits on social media and our forum, you can easily get sucked into buying real gear. Nevertheless, given that this costs quite a lot of money, the transition never occurs overnight.
Luckily we have several amazingly knowledgeable Group members (for example Latro, baleek, Steyrman, etc.) as well as forum members (for example LBT Fanatic, Zero, ThatGuy, etc.), who are able to provide in depth advice to other Group and forum members and help them improve their kits; either with real or replica gear. I am truly proud to be serving such a positive and helpful community and seeing it thrive over the years.
Some of the milsim teams I’ve spoken with in the past – especially those of a more realsim persuasion – often keep their skills honed at walk-ons. What’s your view on walk-ons and bread and butter airsoft?
RR: My first airsoft event was back in 2009. A friend of mine from Uni invited me to attend their local skirmish in the woods behind his house. I ran an MP5 SD and I was instantly hooked. I grew up playing with plastic guns, watching Arnie and Stallone, and playing Wolfenstein/ Doom/ Project IGI/ Delta Force/ CoD/ Battlefield/ Counter Strike (back in the good ol’ 1.1 to 1.6 days) so I always had an appreciation for tactics and guns. The next day I went to a local shop with a buddy of mine, and we both bought Jing Gong HK416, cammies and chest-rigs.
Once I started attending Milsim events, I preferred realism – events lasting over 2-3 days, with deep immersion, small teams and realistic objectives. One of the best events I attended were on a massive military complex in Slovenia.
Lastly, I hate to drop this on you man, but what’s your disaster plan? What happens if you give this up?
RR: Since I sold all my gear, my involvement is mainly to support our community efforts and charity projects. I have tried to distance myself a few times (mainly due to a very demanding job), however, I really get a great amount of satisfaction seeing our progression and how the Groups and the community are evolving. So whilst my involvement has reduced over the years, my heart is still here 😉