The 666th.com – Black Brigade was started on a rainy night 17 July 1998, in Douglas, the Isle Of Man. I had been patiently waiting the release of SpecOps, as a member of a squad called Delta Company. As reports on the progress of SpecOps came in, my only contact in the squad, Drakosha from Estonia, informed me that the game lacked any multiplayer capabilities and that it would be a 3Dfx only non first person shooter. Delta Company fell apart even before the game was launched. Until then my only online multiplayer experience had been with a bloke, yep Angeleyes, in Longbow 2 and a few chaotic minutes in F22 ADF.

Bored in the attic of our apartment, I applied to join a squad called the 214th in the States, but I heard nothing from them. Instead I scoured the their forums, and began noticing that they treated all “newbies” or applicants with a real bad attitude and arrogant scrutiny. In true South African / Scottish nature, my blood boiled at this arrogance and I decided “bugger them – I will start my own squad, with precisely the opposite attitude in mind. One based on an open door policy and lasting friendships”.

That night I slammed together the initial website with my limited knowledge of web development and my trusty favourite, Photoshop. Dialing up to the UK mainland, I located a free hosting company, and uploaded the 666th entree into cyberspace. The 666th was born. The founding statement you see today still on the 666th.com’s main page was written that very same night and in that spirit I set about recruiting. Naturally, I contacted Angeleyes immediately, but he was not convinced, besides, he had started his own “squad”, albeit a non combat one, that would use F22 ADF for formation flying only. I planted some seeds and let them grow. Then I hit the 214th forum and contacted every recruit that was being shunted or ignored. My memory might forsake me round these times, but i think this is how I managed to get a fellow called SeaHawk to join. SeaHawk – who is still with the 666th – aka Archangel, brought a buddy with him called Eagle. And then all of a sudden a bloke from Argentina showed up called Acido (I feel the need). We had a team !!! Flex from Israel joined and this bloke was shit hot.

Not even a week later, Angeleyes changed his mind and joined. From then on recruits began pouring in. Lange joined, Fox-One, then Simba etc etc.  F22 ADF was BIG in those days, and I am convinced till today, that no flight sim till today, has managed to have such an impact on the net as F22 did. Virtual Squadrons were to be found on any server around the world, the 214th, the 69th, the 111th… and each one of them was SERIOUS about simming. A virtual war existed those days, not just in aerial encounters and challenges but in heated arguments via ICQ and emails – and the 666th, the new kid on the block was starting to muscle its way in amongst them.

A pure F22 ADF squad only in those days the 666th Rogue Squadron, our founding unit, flexed its muscles built on a 100% pure military styled doctrine, angering other squadrons by adopting a pure military styled ROE (Rules of Engagement) based on realism. Constantly pounding their forums, we sucked up all those unaccepted by their squads, and by the end of that year mustered 4 complete wings of 16 pilots each. A formidable force, bound together by military camaraderie and unit pride, the 666th began challenging the older squads to open war e.g. the campaign against the 214th and the Spanish Esquadron 111.

Fought on our ROE and planned months in advance by proper military intelligence gathering on the other units (old SeaHawk managed to infiltrate those squads a few time to gather information on tactics and performance), campaigns like the one against the 111th was as well organised as any real life military campaign – togethor with OPSEC in place, callsigns being changed to reflect mission numbers, briefings and debriefings. This was exiting times, and whenever things aboard the 666th look bleak I look back at those days for inspiration.

Sure as we have today, recruits came and went, I guess the 666th has had close to 800 members in its lifetime, but in every hundred is one bloke who is of the calibre and resolve to keep this unit alive. Many are still with us, and many of the old boys have begun returning to the 666th. This is what I live for. This is why I am with the 666th and I will always be. To mention names is not important, those members know who they are, and we know who they are. Just go look at some of your buddies join dates in their TACOPS file, and you will see.

I salute you all my friends… Now 5 years later, sitting here on a winter night, way down south at the tip of Africa, I honour your friendships and I honour your commitment. The 666th.com Black Brigade is not me or any one person – it is a spirit that lives withe the love, sweat and tears of all of you… Thank you !

Blast from the past

Today, July 18th 2000 marks the two year anniversary of the existence of this great online squadron. Most other squadrons never even make it to their first, much less a second year. All of this has been made possible by all the members in this unit which take time everyday to game and have fun. We are all about determination, dedication, friendship and having one hell of a fun time.

 

Most currently enlisted personnel do not know why or how or who started this unit. The unit was started by roughly half a dozen F-22 ADF pilots including Angeleyes, Fox-One, Acido, Cobra, Archangel (Then Seahawk) and the one that thought of it all,the one and only Maddog. Of course months after the dark shadow which as Maddog would say on enemy message boards would bring the apocalypse to all other squadrons gained many talented minds. Among these are Lange (Technical genius may I add), Eagle, Anaconda, Scott_68, Ace, Grunt and the rest which have created the structure of the 666th network of  squadrons.

 

The unit that started it all was the Rogue squadron. From the day that the squadron gained structure it was known among the F-22 ADF and sim world as a force of extreme power. It’s first challenge came within months after it was formed against a rather controversial and at the time packed a rather large ego, the 214th. The 214th was as well very important in the forming of the 666th as most original members hated the number haha. From day one the 214th was our main target.

 

Even though the 214th claimed victory after I believe it was 3 flights out of the planned dozen or so the war was considered a void. Months after the 214th engagement the Rogue squadron engaged once more an invading squadron. This time however the enemy squadron was full of ignorant, non-english speaking, Spain based unit. Weeks before the actual engagement the 666th started it’s psychological campaign on it’s own message boards. This included posts which where deliberately made to well, make the enemy shit it’s pants. To make a long story short the 666th Rogue squadron under the command of Angeleyes achieved a decisive victory over the Esquadron 111th.

 

Around this time the 666th started expanding, forming squadrons for different games. The first squadron to sprout was the very talented 666th Redskulls (European Air War) which was originally commanded by Angeleyes but then passed down to Lange. Then came out the 666th Noire (Falcon 4.0) and the 51 Recce (Rogue Spear) and soon followed by the 666th Shadow Company (Wargasm). These three squadrons formed in a three month period and quickly gained members. Lately the 666th has as well expanded it’s ground forces to Delta Force forming the talented 51 Delta Force Unit.

 

What does all of this come to? What the hell was the point to this message you ask? Well for all of you to see what a privilege it is to be part of such a great unit with a history that spans two years. Two years isn’t much really, but for a unit to survive 2 years it sure is. All in all, Happy Birthday 666th.

 

Captain Garo “Archangel” Hernandez
July 18th 2000 , Formerly known as Seahawk hehe

The road ahead

So what lies ahead for all of us? First off, we must accept that the 666th.com – Black Brigade is and must continue to evolve, to stay on the move. Without movement, it will stagnate like thousands of other sites and squads have in the past. You might not always agree with the direction we are moving in and any given time, but move we must. Movement requires change, and change comes hard to some people – and that we must acknowledge and accept. The 666th.com – Black Brigade you see today is NOT the 666th.com – Black Brigade you will see tomorrow, and it is most definetly not the 666th.com – Black Brigade of the past.

Throughout this change, and like a river or a combat team in enemy territory we MUST be able to change course or change our plan of action, at a moment’s notice, to keep moving forward. Life is not a clear cut plan, nor is our unit. But what keeps our momentum up, and pull us through to the other side, is the spirit of the 666th, its military foundation to retain order, and the willingness of key individuals to accept and guide these changes. Many officers of the Black Brigade, totally disagree on many issues, but despite personal convictions, they bear the spirit, creed and survival of our unit in mind. 

In times of change, it requires strength of character, loyalty and a good sense of humour, positive input to pull us through. That is how YOU can contribute to the 666th. It is here where I wish you would go read our founding statement again, and the Creed of the 666th.

Now ask yourself an honest question. Apart from turning up to practices, and posting in the forums regularly, what else do you do for the 666th.com – Black Brigade? You know, the 666th is a HUGE site, and it requires some individuals up to 6 hours a day, every day, every week, every year, to keep the 666th moving forward. What is slowing us down the most at the moment, is not things like “Tom did not turn up for practice”, no sir, it is the logistical and support nightmare that lurks and stretches for 5 years behind us, growing longer everyday, as the 666th moves ahead.

Myself and some key individuals in BBHQ can no longer keep up the running of this army, not just financially, but in every way. Long time ago established strong points and key areas of the 666th.com army on the move, have been left to fall into disarray and let me inform you know, from a strategic stance, this has left our flanks exposed and vulnerable to a point where our entire move forward is threatened to grind to a standstill.

Let me list some of these;

  • The TACOPS system
  • The FTS – Fighter Training School programme
  • The GFTS – Ground Forces Training School
  • Resurrection of founding squadrons.
  • Website maintenance and support –  some squads virtually does not exist.
  • Content sourcing and resupply.
  • Our operational level – as in properly organised online wars and campaigns.
  • Recruitment anf the training, induction of new recruits.
  • Standards of young NCO’s and Officers.
  • Hosting services.
  • Marketing.

Now before you get on a high horse, yes, I know that some of you are currently working on some of the above issues, but you may not know it yet, but you need help and you will need support. I, myself, am to blame in many of the issues above for not being able to be on hand 100% all the time to help, the ugly truth is, before I was involved in all those issues, and you may be waiting on me to make the next move. The reality is, I am actively engaged in a multiple other issues requiring my immediate attention or in some strategic implementations, that to you might seem unimportant at your current time and situation.

This means taking initiative in your own hands, like some of you have done already and to put a plan of action together, and find the people to help you with this. Officers must learn to delegate the necessary tasks to accomplish the mission, and ask other commanders to allocate their teams if necessary as well. Like in any military, all you have to do is then at least report your situation regularly so us at BBHQ know what is going on. Don’t just scoot off and fix the problem without informing BBHQ of your intentions and plan of action. Without you constant status reports, I am unaware of development.

Now a word on delegating. To me, handing something over to someone to do is useless if that person is incapable of doing the task and having to continually bug me with every minor detail. Assign people who can work independently WITHIN A TEAM. Assign the goal, and let that person find his own way to accomplish the task, insisting only on daily or weekly progress reports. BBHQ is to short staffed to get involved in every detail, that is why we have a chain of command folks !

Immediate plan of action

And this is not set in stone. First lets set a time limit on achieving these issues, second lets pull people from current positions into a “special project” position and assign people to these tasks. Brief each special project team leader with what is expected of him, and by when he has to complete his project. Each project team leader must then recruit or find the people inside or outside of the organisation to help him complete his task. Nobody in the 666th at this time should have a free ride (i.e just play online and post in the forums) – we all have to pull together to get our problem areas strengthened first.

The OPS-A and OPS-G commanders will draft the initial project lists within their own field of operations, and I will draft the global 666th project list. They will meet with their TacHQ commanders and main officers and distribute/allocate the projects accordingly – putting in place reporting, back to themselves and BBHQ, and handing down orders to the ranks. They will set up a forum for each project and make sure access is provided to those involved.

Target date for the initial project drafts is 1 August 2003, and for TacHQ allocation by the end of August. Length of each special project will vary naturally, depending on the complexities involved in completing the project.

Let me state from day one, that I want a “bring it home” attitude to underlay all decisions, as in FTS, individual sites, Black Flag, Red Flag etc, to be brought back to full operational status WITHIN the 666th.com – Black Brigade.  Secondly I want all officers and individuals in command to reread our modus operandii, our SOP’s, our creed and bring that home to the men serving under them, or new recruits, in every single action they perform or words they speak in the forums.

Thirdly at lastly I want OPS commanders to install a sense of duty in all officers and serving men, to make our members aware that work (besides gaming and having fun) is involved, and that performance will be monitored. Those failing to do the tasks or orders assigned to them, within reason, will and must be held accountable for their failure to do so, or for those under their command to do so. In the same breath, those who do perform and achieve their targets must be rewarded and praised for doing so – at the end of the day we are all accountable for the survival of this fine unit.

Some interesting facts

For those who believe that the 666th.com is only about playing your game in the squad and the forums being the only web area to visit.

Sure the forums is or was one of the busiest areas of the 666th.com, well thats what you would think anyway. For current members and squads it is sure, but it contributes to less than 3% of outside or total new visitors to the 666th.com – Black Brigade. !! Recruitment and personal members referring traffic to the 666th.com – Black Brigade plays a big role in the numbers game too for sure, so does some of our squad’s websites and definitely Black Flag run by OPS-G, but for someone who has never heard of the 666th, they are referred to us by 2 sections on our site, that bring in the most unknowns to our domain.

The first was our DropZone downloads section which doubled our traffic in less than a month, and we had to shut it down to avoid getting into major debt with our hosting company for sucking large gulps of bandwidth. Apart from the patches, upgrades etc in the dropzone, MOD666 for DF Landwarrior exceeded 25 000 downloads (and then I stopped counting) and the VietnamXpak for the same game, both 666th.com – Black Brigade products, has now gone over the 1 500 downloads. This means traffic folks, and traffic is like water through the gills of any website swimming around in the sea of online activity. The dropzone although it added the most Gb’s to our traffic bill, still does not bring in the amount of new hits from search engines especially Google, to our articles section(publications featured on the 666th.com frontpage). Don’t be misguided by the hits displayed on those pages, that is not working properly (yet), but do yourself a favour.

Go to Google and search for any few key words in any of those articles and see what you get back. Impressive huh !! Indeed it is – I have been monitoring this for nearly a year now, and on 90% of searches I did using keywords in those articles, the 666th.com – Black Brigade got pulled in the top 1 – 10 results listing. So you thought they are boring and a complete waste of time huh? Well think sgain, cause we outrank the biggest of biggest sites, that is all the sim community sites, e.g. combatsim, simhq, and any military resource site on the web. Now go drink a beer on that !

Recently, and since adding the Acronyms/Terminology database on the FTS website (in progress), if somebody is doing a search for say FAPLA in Google, the 666th.com Acronyms/Terminology database is being hit! This my fellow 666th’ers is huge kinetic potential, and we have just begun with this technology. So go have a look at what is too offer at our mainpage with the new SimLocker, the Weapons Library, the warzone collections, the BorderWar collection etc..

These sections have been started, and they need feeding, consistently, by multiple contributors and researchers. This is where I have been concentrating my efforts for the last year or so, and now they need your interest to build into the biggest online source of military/historical information on the web. This combined with our “virtual squads, aka The Black Brigade” is what makes the 666th.com – Black Brigade unique you see.

My friends, I am tired, and I need to go get some sleep – we will talk again, all of us, and we will discuss many ways we all can play a part in the 666th.com – Black BrigadeYou are all needed, you are all important to us, and to yourselves. We stand together in this, and some us have fought for our survival many times again and again – and nope we may be battle weary but we are most definitely not finished with our battle to be the best.

I am proud to have served with you all till now, and honoured to continue service. I thank you for your efforts and time.

Mad Dog‘ McEwan, BB XO
Langebaan – South Africa 16 July 2003

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