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Why we fight: Inside Shack Tactical, the elite military simulation group

Flying low above a pine forest, the two U.S. Army Blackhawk helicopters suddenly broke formation. From my seat at the open door, the view tipped straight down for a moment before we leveled off. In the distance, backlit by a sky purpling with the dawn, I could see Alpha squad beginning to descend, their rotors kicking up a huge cloud of dust.

Our pilot pulled us into a shallow valley and I lost sight of both the other chopper and the sunrise. In the darkness I began to notice that my palms were sweating.

ShackTac had been in business for nearly a decade when I joined up. That business was, and is, giving players a kind of military simulation experience that's unlike anything else online. This is the story of what's it's like to be a virtual soldier, having serious fun.

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