One disturbingly common shortcoming I’ve witnessed over the last couple of decades of reading militia and survivalist tactical “literature” is a gross over-simplification of the requisite knowledge and skill sets necessary for the survival and success of the small-unit warfighter.
This may range from the assinine, but all too common, recommendation to “read all the Army field manuals,” regardless of the reader’s lack of a suitable frame-of-reference (as I’ve repeatedly alluded to, both on this blog, and in classes, without realistic, well-developed and guided training from someone with experience, you simply are not going to develop an effective understanding of the doctrinal literature, even if it IS written at an 8th grade reading level), to handbooks and manuals that focus on basic marksmanship, with little or no reference to the realities of tactical marksmanship, trying to hit moving bad people who are shooting back at you, and the cool-guy aspects of patrolling, that are actually the least critical elements (I don’t really care what patrol formation you use: traveling, traveling overwatch, wedges, diamonds, or fucking circles….I care that you provide the patrol with 360-degree security, and the ability to react to unexpected contact, from any direction, with overwhelming force and violence-of-action).
One recent manual that made an honest, yeoman’s effort at overcoming these shortcomings is fellow blogger Max Velocity’s “CONTACT” (See my review). My forthcoming work will also be an attempt at overcoming these.
In the meantime, however, this article is intended to help break down the requisite skills, and help you develop a method of training them that will either A) overcome the presumed lack of frame-of-reference (and frankly, while it will burst a lot of bubbles, if you’ve never served in a combat arms unit, and probably in a light infantry or special operations unit, you don’t have the necessary frame-of-reference, I don’t care how many times you’ve watched Red Dawn and Navy SEALs. Being a fucking SWAT cop, or a personnel clerk in the Marine Corps, who did some IMT training at Parris Island does not qualify either.), or B) provide a methodology for group/unit trainers with experience as a junior leader (think E4/E5 team leader, to E6 squad leader), to develop a workable training program.
Requisite training tasks, whether critical individual skills, or mission-essential collective tasks, are the building block of effective training. Simply throwing a bunch of dudes in RealTree camouflage, armed with AKMs and in need of a serious diet, and telling them to “go conduct a patrol,” does NOT constitute training. It MAY constitute playing dress-up in the woods. However, having never been a pre-pubescent girl, I’ve never played dress-up, so I really can’t say with any certainty.
In a previous article, I briefly alluded to, and described, the annual training program for collective tasks, that I discussed with a group I had provided training for. This article will include a further development of that, but will begin with the building blocks that are necessary foundation stones to build the “house” of collective skills. In the military, traditionally, the fundamental skills have been described by the memory aid, “Shoot, Move, and Communicate.” At a novice level, that’s a pretty broad, but accurate description. You should develop the ability to hit anything that you can see, out to the reasonable limitations of your chosen weapon. While it’s possible that you may need to engage at 400-500M, and you SHOULD be able to get consistent hits at those ranges, the reality is, in the real-world of UNCONVENTIONAL warfare, you need to be able to POSITIVELY identify the poor bastard you’re getting ready to smoke. The fact that he’s walking down “your” road, with a rifle and load-bearing equipment does not make him a bad guy. He might be the son of the mayor of the town down the road, coming to warn you of an impeding threat. Guess what? In your Chuck Mahwinney fantasy, you smoke him with a surgically-placed shot at 500M, because you couldn’t positively identify him, but “BY GOD! HE WAS ARMED!” and you just declared war on the neighboring town. Want to bet they’ve got more guns and fighters at their disposal? So much for building rapport with the local civilian populace and leadership. Everyone is going to be armed, including you. You can’t expect to shoot every motherfucker with a gun that you see, and live much past a week, even if you’re a retired 1st SFOD-D (DELTA) Sergeant Major. In recognition of the Paretto Principle, I’d offer that you should focus eighty percent of your marksmanship and gun-handling skills on the 0-200M range envelope, and twenty percent on 200-500M. Once you’ve reached, or exceeded, your stated goals at 0-200M (whatever those goals are), then flip the training focus, until you reach the standards for 200-500, then flip them again, back and forth. Marksmanship is not something you learn, then can just “have” when you pick up a weapon, down the range. Yes, the fundamental skills are still going to be there, but the ability to do them, under stress, in effective time-frames, will not.
Moving implies both individual movement techniques, from the low-crawl to the 3-5 second rush (including WHEN to use which one….), to the ability to move quickly, confidently, and quietly, in the “wilderness” of your operational area. Moving surreptitiously in the woods is different than in the sagebrush deserts, is different than in a small town, is different than in a large metro area. The fundamentals still apply at the collective level, as we’ll see, but the specifics need to be practiced and mastered. Moving surreptitiously can also encompass the use of cover and concealment, including camouflage, to facilitate that movement. It can also cover land navigation (do you know what the magnetic declination is for your area? Hell, do you even know what magnetic declination is?), and even methods of traversing adverse terrain, such as mountaineering, rappelling, or swimming. Movement in urban areas may even include the ability to operate a motor vehicle using evasive driving techniques (if you ever want a GREAT “crash” course in effective counter-ambush, aggressive driving, take a ride in a NYC cab. The last time I was in the Big Apple–it was the LAST time I’ll ever be in the Big Apple too–I had a Pashto cabbie that I understood about three spoken words from, but I swear to God, dude had to’ve learned to drive in Mazar-i-Sharif….I’m pretty sure his cab’s back seat still smells like Mosby shit…), or even lock-picking TTPs for B&E. Moving also implies having enough physical conditioning to actually move your ass across the battle space quickly enough to be where you need to be, when you need to be, in order to do what you need to do (Damn, there goes that Mosby guy, talking about PT again. What a motherfucker!)
Moving can also imply collective movement skills, from patrolling formations, to actions at danger areas, to the planning considerations of patrols, whether foot-borne, vehicle-borne, or horseback. In essence, as stated above, it’s an accurate, but very broad set of skills to describe with the simple term “move.”
Communicate can range from the technical such as encrypted email and building a lap top from parts (apparently now part of the SF commo sergeant’s Q-Course, involves learning to repair and rebuild Toughbooks…Damn, I should’ve been an Echo…), to the construction and operation of radio base stations, whether HAM/MURS/FRS/GMRS, or CB, including the properties and applications of different antenna types (Hey, I can’t even get AM reception in our SFOB, so don’t ask me for commo guy advice…). At a general level, it may simply involve the ability to use a radio, with proper radio etiquette, to avoid confusion in message transmission (communication is not just talking. It also means that your noise is received and understood. If you transmit “We need help, now!” and the receiving station hears “goobly-gobbly-gookie,” guess what? You’re fucked.). It can also, as anyone who’s attended an SUT class can attest, mean screaming your fucking head off to communicate to your Ranger buddy that you’re getting ready to move, so he’d damned sure better be shooting at the enemy to keep them pre-occupied enough that they don’t kill you in the process. Communicate can also tie directly into the surreptitious movement skillset, by including the ability to communicate silently, with hand-and-arm signals. This means not only knowing your team/group/unit’s SOP for hand-and-arm signals, but also knowing enough to look around at the other guys in your patrol so they’re not frantically waving their arms around in the air like a Chihuahua on crack, to get your attention and tell you to stop fucking moving before the enemy bunker ahead of you sees you and dumps a belt of machine-gun fire into your daydream.
So, if all of these (and more) are just the “basics” of “shoot-move-communicate,” how can a part-time, weekend warrior militia dude, who is “required” by unit SOP to spend six hours a night of training weekends sitting around the fire, drinking beer and talking shit about “killing a commie for mommy,” and “being a man among men,” fit it all in, PLUS all the necessary collective tasks training?
You can’t. Guys, ain’t none of us being paid for this shit anymore. If you want to do it, that means you’re volunteering. You can unvolunteer anytime you want. If you’re going to stick around and expect your buddies to come help your ass out when the Smurfs are stacking on your front porch, guess what? You have a moral obligation to be ready to do the same for them…and that means you HAVE to learn this shit. So, you have to train on your own, or with one other buddy, between group training weekends. I would go so far as to say, if you can’t figure out a way to dedicate AT LEAST two weekends a month to training, one individually, and one group/team/unit training, you’d be better off in caching your guns and ammunition, and start stockpiling goods to become part of the auxiliary. Anything else is doing a dis-service to everyone involved. It’s a dis-service to the guys who are going to be depending on you to be able to do your part. It’s doing a dis-service to your family, because you’re going to die, and they’re going to end up either in a refugee camp, or providing entertainment to the marauding horde of Mutant-Zombie-Biker-Transvestite-Vampires. It’s doing a dis-service to your community, because you’d have served the community better by not getting their husbands and dads killed because you didn’t train enough, so they had to save your ass from being stupid. Finally, it’s doing a dis-service to yourself, because you’re going to be dead.
So, dedicate one weekend a month, besides your monthly group training, to doing individual training. Dedicate an hour a day, or an hour and a half, to doing PT. If you simply cannot, because of family considerations, or work considerations (and really, they are the same thing, right?), that’s fine. Un-volunteer before you get somebody killed. Life is entirely too short to do important shit half-assed.
Determine all the individual skills you need to acquire, and develop a task-conditions-standard matrix for each one. Then, go practice them. Master them (I’ll give you a break. These matrices are going to be a BIG portion of my forthcoming manual…). See the “chart” below to see one recommended method to train ALL of them adequately, as quickly as possible, while still actually LEARNING them.
Month Skill Set Group
1 A (let’s say, for group A, we’re doing IMT and basic CQM marksmanship training)
2 A refresher
3 B (for group B, we’ll say, we’re going to work on land navigation)
4 A refresher
5 B refresher
6 C (for group C, for shit’s and giggle, we’re going to enter a demolition derby to practice evasive driving)
7 B refresher
So, in nine months, you’ve developed a reasonable level of ability in three groups of individual skills, and an introductory level of familiarity with a fourth. On the other hand, if you really feel crunched for time, you could always spend MORE time. I don’t need to do basic marksmanship training on my individual training weekends, because I have a 200M range out my back door. I dry-fire daily, and shoot a couple times a week. I don’t need to practice moving surreptitiously in the woods, because HH6 and I take walks a couple of times a week, around our property and in the adjacent “public lands” that are only used during hunting season, then sparsely, and we wear LBE and carry weapons when we do so, and I pass on TTPs for moving more efficiently and quietly, as we go.
If you know what your individual skills training needs are, because you’ve developed a training matrix, then you know how to look for opportunities for “hip pocket” training.
Collective Skills Training
You cannot do collective skills training solo. I don’t care who you are. You can read the FMs and books, but until you get out in the woods, with someone who knows what they’re doing, and you have others to train with, you simply cannot do it, by definition.
If you have a group started, or already developed, however, collective skills training should be the focus of your tactical training get-togethers. I sincerely suggest at least once a month. Are you going to develop abilities that equal those of an SF ODA? No. Even reserve component SF units do linger drills than a weekend a month. You can develop the fundamental skills however, so when shit gets hot, you’re far enough along to survive the on-the-job training you’re about to get. During the Vietnam War, SOG actually ran training courses, in-country, that the culmination exercises involved running real patrols, in enemy-controlled territory. Modern SF teams still do it, both on FID missions, and in UW training missions. The key is not to necessarily “master” the collective tasks, but to at least develop enough of a frame-of-reference and experiential knowledge to not die the first time you need to do it for real, on a “culmination” exercise.
In Mosby’s ideal world, groups training today would dedicate at least one weekend a month to collective task training. If that’s not possible, once every other month is better than a kick in the nuts, but is going to result in less than half as effective results. Divide your training year into quarters of three training sessions each. The first training session is simply testing individual skills. Develop a PT test, a marksmanship and weapons handling test, and perhaps a land navigation test, or something similar, as fits the needs and demands of your team/group/unit. Hell, depending on the size of your group, you may be able to test five or six different skills areas (just remember, marksmanship and land nav both need to be tested in daylight and darkness. Yes, you’re going to have to go traipsing through the woods in the dark, by your lonesome, with only a map and compass to navigate by! Don’t fear though, Little Red Riding Hood, you can carry your weapon if you’re worried about the Big Bad Wolf…). On the other hand, the second (and third?) day of this weekend can be used to teach new individual skills that guys don’t otherwise have access to (TC3 is an obvious choice to me. Any moderately competent paramedic should be able to teach it, if he’s got access to the training documents, which are freely available, all over the internet. The only real benefit from taking the course from a guy who’s used it for real in combat, is we can provide lots of anecdotal training references that help drive points home…).
The second weekend of your training cycle can focus on basic battle drills. I suggest react-to-contact, react-to-ambush, enter/clear a building/room, and vehicle down disembarkation drills. In fact, these are the fundamental drills I try and teach during SUT level one classes, coincidentally enough…Run all of them, but especially react-to-contact, with fire-and-maneuver (versus fire-and-movement), ad nauseum, because it really is the foundational battle drill that the success of every other one is predicated on. Seriously, if you can effectively perform react-to-contact, daylight or dark, fair weather or foul, the rest are fucking stupid simple, and just become a matter of learning the details (of course, as they say, God IS found in the details…).
The third weekend of the first training cycle can either be a refresher of the battle drills, or can focus on patrolling movements and formations.
The second training cycle is a repeat of the first cycle, as is the third and fourth. By the end of the year, you’ve now, assuming everyone did their individual training, all year, developed the foundation of a combat-trained small-unit.
The second training year (yeah, because we’ve got two years left….Hell, I’ll still be surprised if we’ve got a year left, but I’m trying to work on being a more optimistic person) you can focus on MOUT and AMOUT (Advanced Military Operations on Urban Terrain). Bring your marksmanship training and weapons handling focus down to the <50M range (because after a year, every motherfucking swinging Richard BETTER be able to engage effectively from 0-400M, now you need to focus on being faster and more accurate at CQM ranges), add some urban-based PT events, such as scaling walls and climbing caving ladders. Add some basic mechanical and ballistic breaching training into your individual skills training weekends.
For the second training weekend, focus on moving to and between structures, using fire-and-maneuver. Really get your SDM guys dialed in on precision rifle fire for suppressive fire, so they can actively, accurately engage threats in built-up areas, with minimal risk to non-combatant bystanders. Let guys practice their breaching skills as they move up to a building, and move into the basic enter/clear a room/building.
For the third training weekend, focus on clearing complete structures, including multiple rooms, stairwells, hallways, etc.
For the second training cycle, definitely repeat the first cycle of the second year, for the third training cycle, go back to the first training year, and do a refresher training cycle.
For the fourth training cycle, go back and do another MOUT/AMOUT training cycle.
For the third year, focus on vehicle-centric patrolling training. Incorporate counter-ambush and evasive driving training. Focus your battle drills training on vehicle-down drills with and without recovery vehicles, and counter-assault team vehicles. Incorporate everything you’ve trained in the preceding two years, by conducting vehicle movements to a staging area near an “objective,” then patrolling the rest of the way on foot, and hitting the objective, consisting of multiple, multi-room structures.
By the end of the third year, you’re still not going to be a fucking ODA or Ranger platoon, but you’ll be about six hundred echelons above the “average” militia, based on what I’ve witnessed and read over the last two decades. When a former SF dude like me shows up, when shit gets hot, he’s going to be a lot happier to continue your training and work with you than if you’ve spent the last three years sitting around the fire, drinking beer and discussing the finer points of direct-impingement versus piston guns and multi-cam versus UCP versus woodland pattern BDUs. He won’t think you’re nearly as gay either.
Individual tasks training, doctrinally, is divided into skill levels. That’s not a bad way to develop individual training skills also. Give members of your group a list of “skill level one” tasks they need to be able to perform. Once they can demonstrate practiced proficiency in those skills, give them the training (as necessary) and the list of “skill level two” tasks, etc. Recognize however, that as irregular force war-fighters, you will need different, and sometimes more advanced skills than a conventional force infantry enlisted man. What a basic UW specialist needs to know is different than what the conventional force guy needs. Just looking at the Warrior Skills Manual and cherry-picking the Skill Level One tasks that look relevant will not be adequate.
As an aid in this article (and a gratuitous, self-serving preview of what the book will contain…), I’m going to include one sample of a potential Skill Level One list of individual skills. I’m not going to include the conditions and standards for each one, but just the task heading (the book on the other hand, or what has been written so far, includes detailed, conversational training and performance steps for teaching and testing every skill…Damn, I’m pimping it hard, huh? In the meantime, the doctrinal publications will have a conditions and standards statement for some of these tasks).
Evaluate a Casualty IAW TC3 Protocols
Perform Care Under Fire IAW TC3 Protocols
Perform Tactical Field Care IAW TC3 Protocols
React to Physical Contact Encounter/Perform Combatives
Move as a Member of a Fire Team/Stick
Move Under Direct Fire/IMT
React to Indirect Fire
Select Temporary Fighting Positions
Move Tactically in a MOUT Environment
Search Halted/Detained Vehicles
Control Access to a Controlled Area
Operate a Vehicle in a Convoy
Camouflage Self and Equipment
Prepare a Range Card for a Fighting Position
Prepare a Fighting Position
Select Hasty Fighting Positions During MOUT Operations (newsflash: cinderblock walls are NOT cover, even against the “measly” 5.56)
Challenge Persons Entering Your Area
Practice Noise, Light, Litter Discipline (I’ve always assumed this one was self-evident. I’m learning otherwise)
Clear Fields of Fire
Search a Detainee/Casualty
Report Information of Potential Intelligence Value
Select an Overwatch Position
Conduct a Local Security Patrol
Select, Occupy, and Operate a Patrol Base
Utilize Visual Tracking Techniques
Perform Immediate Actions on Contact
Perform Visual Surveillance
Determine Direction with a Compass
Identify Terrain Features on a Topographic Map
Determine Magnetic Azimuth using a Compass
Determine the Elevation of a Point on the Ground Using a Topographic Map
Determine a Location on the Ground by Terrain Association
Navigate from One Point on the Ground to Another while Dismounted
Measure Distance on a Map
Orient a Map to the Ground by Map-Terrain Association
Locate an Unknown Point by Intersection/Resection
Compute Back Azimuths
Determine Direction without a Compass, using Multiple Methods
Perform Voice Communications on a Radio Net/Observe Radio Protocols
Perform Hand-and-Arm Signals
Operate intra-team radios
Operate inter-team radios
Employ Visual Signaling Devices
Zero Personal Primary Small Arm
Engage Targets, 0-400M, with Personal Primary Small Arm
Maintain Personal Primary Small Arm, including field-armorer repairs
Perform a Functions Check of Personal Primary Small Arm
Correct Malfunctions of Personal Primary Small Arm (How the fuck do people not know SPORTS and Tap-Rack-Bang? Seriously….How many malfunctions have I seen in classes, from various reasons, and the shooter looks at me like he’s got a dick growing out of his forehead…”Whadda I do now!?”)
(Editorial Note: If there are multiple weapons types within the unit, every member should know the above with every weapon. I would also suggest A) acquiring a Kalashnikov to familiarize with, especially if you live in a very rural area or an urban area, and B) standardizing on one platform…preferably a Stoner. Additionally, if everyone has different optics systems, be a good buddy and make sure everyone knows everything about your optic and how to maximize its use…as an example, do you know how to utilize an EoTech’s reticle as a ranging device, out to 400M, give or take?).
Construct Expedient Shelter
Construct Expedient Traps/Snares
Conduct a Trapline/Snareline
Start a Fire without Matches, Using Multiple Methods
Devise a Means for Cooking
Utilize KeyWord SURVIVAL
Select Items Essential for a Survival Kit
Construct and Maintain a Survival Fire
Purify Muddy, Stagnant, or Polluted Water
Conduct a Short-Range Evasion
Evade Dog/Visual Tracker Teams/Employ Counter-Tracking Methods
Select a Temporary Hide Site Under Evasion-Survival Conditions