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Man opens Saugus ranch for war games

Posted: July 18, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: July 18, 2011 1:57 a.m.
Helmut Fritz participates in war games at the Blue Cloud Ranch in Saugus on Saturday. Helmut Fritz participates in war games at the Blue Cloud Ranch in Saugus on Saturday.
Helmut Fritz participates in war games at the Blue Cloud Ranch in Saugus on Saturday.
Actresses and models, from left, Sierra Fisk, Amy Johnston, and Lisa Cullen check their military grade Airsoft weapons after participating in war games. Actresses and models, from left, Sierra Fisk, Amy Johnston, and Lisa Cullen check their military grade Airsoft weapons after participating in war games.
Actresses and models, from left, Sierra Fisk, Amy Johnston, and Lisa Cullen check their military grade Airsoft weapons after participating in war games.
U.S. forces members search for a female interpreter hidden in the set U.S. forces members search for a female interpreter hidden in the set
U.S. forces members search for a female interpreter hidden in the set
Members representing U.S. forces move past the window of a Humvee during war games in a Middle Eastern-town set at Blue Cloud Ranch in Saugus on Saturday. Members representing U.S. forces move past the window of a Humvee during war games in a Middle Eastern-town set at Blue Cloud Ranch in Saugus on Saturday.
Members representing U.S. forces move past the window of a Humvee during war games in a Middle Eastern-town set at Blue Cloud Ranch in Saugus on Saturday.
A member of the insurgent team leans around a wall with an Airsoft weapon. A member of the insurgent team leans around a wall with an Airsoft weapon.
A member of the insurgent team leans around a wall with an Airsoft weapon.
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For a decade, Rene Veluzat’s Blue Cloud Movie Ranch has been home to feature movies, television shows and commercials.

With some 25 sets spread over his 100-acre Saugus ranch, Veluzat has let crews from shows like “JAG” and “NCIS” turn the canyons and dry hills into backdrops for the latest adventures set in the Middle East.

But on Saturday, Veluzat turned his movie ranch over to about 200 Army enthusiasts who organized a series of war games over his sprawling property.

“I like to play, too,” he said with a laugh as he drove a Humvee through a simulated battle scene. “I get something out of it. It’s a way to give back.”

The annual event, which honors the U.S. Army, brings together fathers and sons, armed forces veterans and law enforcement for war games that also serve as training.

“This is exactly like we were in Afghanistan,” Veluzat said about his ranch. “This is exactly what it’s like over there.”

Doug Reuter, 19, of Porterville, plans to have a career in law enforcement. Until he begins academy training this year, he’ll learn what happens in battle through war games.

“It helps me with weapons training,” he said. “It’s good for when we have to handle real guns.”

The war games were a break for Veluzat, who keeps Blue Ranch busy with filming year-round.

Recently, Veluzat had 37 days straight of filming at his ranch, from a Volkswagen commercial, to “Touch,” a new television drama on Fox, he said.

“I have so many different sets,” he said. “Each has its own look.”

Among the sets he’s built include an Iraqi village, a Shanghai town and even a cave that snakes through the ranch.

Along with the backdrops, Blue Ranch is home to an airplane hanger, Humvee motor vehicles, helicopters and more than a dozen Army trucks.

And he puts it all together at Blue Ranch, helping bring to life everything from student films to major blockbusters such as “Iron Man.”

“You have to like the business, because you have your ups and downs,” he said. “And basically, I’m always up.”

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