History professor no softie at airsoft games


Professor Slayton, center, with fellow airsoft enthusiasts.

After a two-year break from his beloved airsoft, an action pursuit that is part sport, part military role-play,  Robert Slayton, Ph.D., history professor,
Wilkinson College of Humanities and Social Sciences
is back in the game.

Dr. Slayton was a devotee of the sport for half a decade, playing every weekend. Airsoft is a game in which participants fire light, 6 mm—round plastic projectiles from realistic-looking guns. Players maneuver a field alone or in teams, and shoot at one other.  Once hit, a player is out.  Everyone wears military uniforms, and the guns are replicas of the real thing.


Professor Slayton’s improvised airsoft armor takes the hit and protects his wheelchair.

“It’s the ultimate form of playing soldier like we did when we were kids … but with nobody getting hurt,” he says.

Then, in August 2008, Dr. Slayton came down with
transverse myelitis
, an extremely rare spinal cord disease.  The result was that he became a hemiplegic, with his left side paralyzed, and now he uses an electric wheelchair to get around.

Within a year, he was back in the classroom, had one book published (
Master of the Air: William Tunner and the Success of Military Airlift
), and was working on two more.  But he still wanted to play airsoft.  In fact, Dr. Slayton explains, one of the first things he did when he came home from the rehab center and back to his computer was write a proposal for disability airsoft.

To make this happen, Slayton called on his many friends from playing days and organized a reunion game.  He found an indoor field with level floors so he could get around; one of the other players even showed up in a wheelchair, in an act of solidarity.

On a bright summer Saturday morning, the game was on.  While everyone ran for cover behind obstacles, Slayton whizzed around; he had armor-plated the wheelchair so that pellet shots could not foul the operating mechanism. Meanwhile, he was blasting away, having a great time, like everyone else. His pals even came up with a name for his adventure – “chairsoft.”

That day Slayton made history of his own, becoming the first person to his knowledge to ever play airsoft in a wheelchair.


  • The fact that Dr. Slayton is playing air soft again being wheel chair bond is not surprising. When Dr, Slayton loves to do something there is nothing that he would let stand in his way. You go Dr. Slayton!

  • Bob, you must have had a blast. Our “new” abilities just require us to figure out another way to do many of the things we loved to do before TM. Congrats on making another move forward…especially when everyone is celebrating ADA’s 20th anniversary you are making foward progress.

  • Bob I’m glad to see you out there again even though I wasn’t in that particular game. For sure I will be sharing the field with you soon. Glad to see that you’re back old friend.