Initial Report on Combat Patrol & Gear Thoughts

UAV Mounted Radar Tracking – in the USA
January 17, 2014
Combat Patrol 18-20 Jan 2014 AAR #1 – F
January 21, 2014

I’m just back in front of the keyboard after this past weekend’s 3 day Combat Patrol Class. Attending were 9 students. JC Dodge of Mason-Dixon Tactical also came up for the weekend to help out. From my perspective, the weekend was a success, and it went according to the training plan, but I will leave the final arbitration on that to any AAR’s I may receive from attending students. I’m also hoping to get some photos that I will post.


JC (left) and Myself (right – with cup of tea as usual) at the Class.

To give you a rough outline of the schedule for the class, without giving away any surprises:

Day 1:

AM: Patrol theory, gear, basics of movement, actions on various situations.

PM: Ranges: Squad size break contact drills: center peel, simultaneous contact (front and flank), squad offensive contact drill – hasty attack on a bunker system. These drills are designed to move on from the team level drills focused on during CRCD and introduce more tools for the box at squad (multiple team) level. These drills are all rehearsed dry  before going live.

Night: Free. Camp or hotel stay.

Day 2:

AM: Patrol bases, more rehearsals, specifics of various patrol types (actions on the objective). Gear inspection. Practical: putting up a shelter tarp.

PM: Tactical phase. Ruck insertion to patrol base. Conduct of the full procedures for establishing a patrol base. Routine in a patrol base up until and including evening stand-to.

Night: student led reconnaissance patrols. Back in by midnight. Rest of the night, routine in the patrol base until and including morning stand-to.

Day 3:

AM: Live phase. Break contact drill. Ambush.

PM: Raid.

The entire class is live fire. Because we conduct recce on live enemy, and sleep in the patrol base, I introduce new safety procedures above and beyond the usual CRCD class safety procedures. For non-live firing phases we do a supervised unload followed by a load with an inspected, marked, empty magazine, to ensure no negligent discharges on the recce patrol or in the patrol base. Before going live we have a little non-tactical break where we load and put ear pro in.

The entire class follows a scenario. Each time we move from teaching into a tactical phase, it follows the scenario. The scenario can be found HERE. Thus, it builds from establishing the patrol base in the AO, conducting recce to find the enemy, ambush to strike part of the force, raid to fix and finish the remainder.

Here are some of my thoughts that I would like to emphasize after the class:

I am proud of the performance of all the students on the class. Real troopers. It was cold, but it warmed up a little. With the weather on day 1, what they don’t know was that I was about to cancel the sentry duties in the patrol base and let them sleep until stand-to. However, it warmed up and they did it. I had considered that there may be refusals to get out of their sleeping bags, but that didn’t happen. I’ll talk about PT in a moment, but what is as important as PT is self-discipline and determination. The most miserable time of an infantry soldiers life is morning stand-to in the cold and wet. I was laughing with JC about how we were both getting out of our bags muttering and bitching that morning!

Internet commandos in the warmth of their own homes do not understand any of this. The students on this class showed up and showed the right mettle. Good stuff. I haven’t got time for people who talk the talk but don’t walk the walk. Posting in comments but never getting out and doing it doesn’t cut it. A lot of you out there are getting out and doing it. Those who attend my classes. Others such as Bergmann in Alaska spring to mind. The tacticoolers have no idea what they are talking about, no skin in the game

PT/Gear: The level of your PT, strength and cardio, will determine what gear you can carry. There is a certain minimum of gear, both fighting and sustainment, that you need to be able to carry to conduct light infantry/unconventional warfare operations. What this means is that you need to both do PT, and get smart, about how you plan to conduct operations.

Infantry ‘FreeFor’ style operations in an SHTF environment need to stay away from the tacticool. You are in both a combat and survival situation. This means that you need to carry a basic sustainment load. This is why I bang on about the battle belt. The battle belt will weigh a little, mine weights 25lb, but that is kind of the idea. It’s not all about saving weight when there is gear to be carried. That is where the basic PT/strength comes in. On that belt is your ammo but also some basic food, water and survival gear.


My Battle Belt

The only disadvantage with a battle belt is that the rear pouches make it not ideal for sitting in vehicle seats. If you think you are going to need to sit in vehicles for any length of time, then you can use an assault vest style rig. I have one. I can rapidly transfer gear from one to the other if I need to. The thing about an assault vest is that it should not be a ‘chest rig’ style set-up; like one of your classic rows of mag pouches with maybe a small sustainment pouch under each arm. With a proper assault vest, it has enough pouches to carry the same gear as a battle belt. The disadvantage is that it is around your torso and therefore not as good a load bearing set -up as a battle belt, but it keeps the pouches out of the small of your back to sit in vehicles. Here is  similar assault vest to the one I have:

assault vest

Assault Vest – Sustainment Type

Whether you are wearing a battle belt or sustainment assault vest, they fulfill the same function of allowing you to carry an ammo load plus a basic sustainment load.

The next thing is rucks. I wrote a post about ‘Gear Philosophy Update‘ discussing the need to go lighter. It would help if you read that, to prevent me having to repeat myself. There are a couple of sides to the ruck thing. Firstly, don’t go too heavy. The only time you may want to do that is if you are rucking in to insert to a base and carrying additional supplies to cache at that base and conduct operations from. If you have to break contact wearing a too heavy ruck, you will have to dump it and you will never see it again – serious in SHTF where there is no QM replacing your gear. Also, without serious PT capability, you will be like an upturned turtle out on the ground and you are likely to collapse before you get a mission completed.

The flip side of not going too heavy is  that if you try and go light, but have to carry a lot of gear due to circumstances, you need an appropriate sized ruck. I saw too much at the weekend of people using these ‘tactical’ book bags, with the zippers instead of a top flap, with gear hanging off. That just leads to a nightmare when trying to pack gear away in  a patrol base, when it never goes back in like you packed it at home.  In those circumstances, it is better to have  larger pack that you can tighten down, rather than a tactical book bag and a load of crap hanging off it.

You can go round and round all you like, and you may hate to hear this, but the two best rucks you can buy for infantry operations are the medium and large ALICE packs. I love them. Get the tactical tailor versions if you want. If you have a problem with the ALICE, and I hear a lot of whining, it most likely comes back to PT, strength and lack of intestinal fortitude. It is the best all round pack for infantry operations. And, it is short and squat and fits ideally onto the rear pouches of a battle belt, worn at the right height (low).

Now, my advice to always go light has to be tempered with reality. This patrol class it was a very cold winter class. This means that packs needed to be large enough to fit the bulk of snivel gear and sleeping bags. In the summer you can get away with a lot less, but you have to factor in a greater water load. This is why I suggest the medium and large ALICE. The large is ideal for a full sustainment load. The medium is ideal for a true assault/patrol pack. If you are using the large pack, carry a roll-able smaller patrol pack that you can use either empty to later fill up and use as a patrol pack, once you get to the patrol base. Or filled and on the top of your ruck to use as a grab bag if you have to ditch your ruck. However, if you carry a patrol pack on your ruck, make sure it goes on or under the lid on top, and not hanging off the back of the ruck, which is an awful way to pack and carry your load. There is a USMC ruck with patrol pack that zips on the back that is long like an alpine pack: the whole thing is an abomination for an infantry load.


The Large ALICE I used at the Patrol Class

I carried my battle belt (25lb) plus a large ALICE packed with sleeping bag and snivel gear, plus an extra ammo load and rations for 3 or 4 days. It came in at 50 lb. When you are in a patrol base it is not camping. The outside pouches on the ALICE make it helpful to get to gear such as food and stoves without going into the main compartment. As a ruck it has sufficient capacity to easily stuff crap back into in the dark. I carry my sleeping bags in the bivvy bag and free from the stuff sack. This means that the whole thing can be stuffed back into the ruck in a hurry. It fills the available volume and can be compressed when you load other stuff into the ruck.

So if we go back to the iron triangle of PT vs. weight vs. gear you need, it becomes evident that there needs to be both a balance and a bit of creative thinking. I can’t tell you how you may end up operating post-SHTF. If you are heading out from your base to conduct patrol operations you need to be as light as possible while carrying a suitable mission oriented sustainment load in your battle belt and in your patrol pack/ruck. You are going to be unable to live for weeks at a time in the woods without resupply. So rather than think about hugely heavy rucks that you may not be able to carry, think about moving your supplies in by other means. Think about vehicles, horses, mules, deer carts, bicycles, ATV’s and the like. You can move gear up to the vicinity of the patrol base you are going to use, and either stack it in the base or have it cached somewhere in waterproof containers.

Unless you have the physical strength, you will be unable to carry huge loads. Even if you can carry it, you will move slower and be more vulnerable to enemy contact. We are not aiming to reproduce an overburdened big .mil infantry soldier here. On the one hand, FreeFor infantry operations are hard graft and you need the basic ability and mental strength to carry a decent fighting load. On the other hand, huge rucks are not the way forward.

Live Hard.

Die Free.



  1. D Close says:

    Now we talking! Great to hear Class 001 complete and all personnel RTB. Congrats to all and Max for slogging it out. To support the troops out there I PT’d, reread Patriot Dawn and Sun-Tzu. I will be working on ruck load out from now until it’s my turn. Unfortunately I have one of those Marine ILBE packs Max loves to hate. Haters gonna hate…Thanks for the heads-up. I will work on the pack to address those concerns.

  2. Bergmann says:

    Our day Yesterday..

    Some mods I did to my PLCE vest. I cant run an AK from it so its strictly a survival vest I use for scouts of my TA..This was an early version of the PLCE vest and didn’t have attachments for the Bergen side pouches. It now takes a US MOLLE side pouch.

    Replaced the M4/SA80 mag pouches with webbing to add a MOLLE pouch for binos and other Admin junk..

    I’ll second the ALICE praise. However I prefer the PLCE long back ruck because it fits my stature best. Its not perfect and I have had to also mod this extensively to suit my needs..


  3. F says:

    To the point as usual Max.
    All the information you need, none of the information you don’t.

    F : )

    • Daniel says:

      Nice Bergmann. Tell me, how do you hit anything with that underfolder and no cheek weld? I run an AMD-65 and was useless until I put a cheek riser on it. Now I upgraded to pathetic…


      • Bergmann says:

        I have no idea what a cheek riser even is other then the self explanatory nature of the name. To me its a weapon, its works fine for me just how it is and I dont have a need to add comfort appliances.

        I had an AMD a while ago and I didn’t like anything about it.


  4. Collin Iams says:

    As a Marine that had to carry the abomination that is the ILBE, I can attest that it is the most uncomfortable pack I’ve ever worn. Much prefer the ALICE pack. Just discovered the blog recently (and ordered the books,lol), great stuff. No ego, no hubris, just good, solid tactics. Now I just have to make my way down from Ohio and take a course.

    • F says:

      Looking forward to having another training buddy with us! : )

      • Collin Iams says:

        Thanks F, trying to convince my brother and brother-in-law to come with me and plan in advance, so I’m hoping for this summer.

        • F says:

          That would be awesome!
          I would look forward to being part of a 12 man Squad.
          As a “half platoon” we could then exercise the full assault cycle, with a fireteam in the assault role, one in the fire support role and one as flank protection/reserve.

        • F says:

          PS: We often have people coming from further than Ohio to do these classes…. : )

  5. SP says:

    Looking at that picture – typical Brit with brew in hand like a new Dad holding his first born “No one is getting near this brew!” Haha love it!

    The webbing set up being worn by JC – am I right/wrong in thinking it is some Rhodesian set up?

    And have I read this right? Max was “ticking” about having to get out of his nice warm fart sack?

    • Max Velocity says:

      Yes, between JC snoring, a deer grunting, tearing the zip on my bag and having a cold night, I was chuntering like a good ‘un getting out of my pit that morning 😉

  6. I use a tac tailor molle vest that has mag pouches (will carry 8 for the M1A, with 20 rounds on strippers in the bottom of each mag pouch to help the mags stick up) pistol mags (2), monocular, tac light multi tool, knife, dump pouch, strobe, compass, Ifak, radio, and admin/canteen pouch.. My rig can take AK, M4, or M14 mags. I where this over an LBE h harness with buttpack, canteens (2), pistol, knife, pistol mags (2). The H harness is a survival rig, and the vest is primarily an ammo carrying rig. .iI’m gonna post in a bit about the specifics of Max’s class, in a word, it was AWESOME, and well worth your time.

  7. On the paragraph about battle belts/chest rigs/assault vests-
    What about a person (not me) who is using a plate carrier?
    I know it’s been discussed some here and there favorably, but since you’re also not a big fan of chest rigs, how do you see something like a PC fitting in, since it’s sort of a cross between a CR and AV?

    • Max Velocity says:

      I see the PC fitting in as a slick plate carrier that you have the option of wearing under your battle belt harness or under your assault vest. This gives you versatility. I have a slick plate carrier that I took the pouches off.
      If you are, after all, humping a big ruck in the backwoods, you probably don’t want to wear your PC. Yes I know, you can, we have all worn these full military soft/plate body armor rigs festooned with magazines. But mostly, these were for vehicle based operations. I have patrolled miles and miles wearing full body armor under an assault vest as pictured. But it’s not ideal. Its not ideal in extreme heat. None of us want to get shot but I think the SHTF ‘full time’ reality will mean that people will not wear plates all the time, and they will reserve them for static defense or deliberate attack operations, perhaps for vehicle moves. Living and patrolling in the backwoods, staying alive by not dying of heat exhaustion and general exhaustion is more of a factor than taking rounds to the chest.
      Ask how many brought plates but did not wear them on the patrol class or even a CRCD…
      And the ‘HITT’ teams – if they continue to try and wear all this gear and follow you round in the backwoods, they will not get far. Vehicle or helicopters, short moves only – particularly judging by some of the fatness levels I see….
      Moral is, don’t have all your pouches stuck to your PC. Have versatility and wear you rig over your PC when you want to.

  8. To start, I want to say, thank you to all the students for a very rewarding weekend, your the reason Max and I do what we do. Max’s new course is all that, and more! I was unsure how well the first one would go, since there are usually a lot of kinks to work out of a Program of Instruction before it goes smoothly. Fortunately, there was little that needed to be tweeked. This is primarily due to the forethought that Max put into planning the course, and after working with him, I can tell you he has thought of everything possible to jam into a three day course, as it relates to the most important Infantry small unit tactics skills. This course could be compared to an abreviated Light Fighter Course, no salad or dessert, just meat and potatoes. Take this as it is meant (this coming from a trainer in the same locale and type of training) for the money and time spent, you will not receive better training anywhere in the country, from anyone, than you will get in Max’s patrolling class, period! You might find something close to comparable, but not better. I enjoyed working with Max, and it’s always interesting to hear how guys from other countries skin the “tactics cat”. Everything that Max puts out is spot on (different terms, same content), and delivered in a way that is understood by students who have no background in this subject. There isn’t any bland reguritation of doctrine, or “the 7-8 says” here (and I’ve seen that elsewhere). It is life saving team tactical instruction, geared towards the armed civilian, for a SHTF scenario. BTW, it’s a good thing I’m partially deaf, or I would have heard Max building the log cabin with a crew served chainsaw…ALL NIGHT!
    American by BIRTH, Infidel by CHOICE

  9. On the PC debate, vehicle ops and static defense, I have an IBA with plates, and that’s when it would get used. I would rather be able to move faster, and protect my whole body, than have protection on a portion, and get shot because I was slower.

    • F says:

      Thanks for putting it into a nutshell w/ the last sentence.. I’ve been looking for a way to properly express that exact sentiment in a few to-the-point words rather than many.

  10. Perioikoi says:

    The weight issue is one that’s become a near obsession in how I construct a load-out. It effects how I build an AR too the construction of tactical nylon. Every pound saved is another mag, more water, or greater mobility. Interestingly enough this balancing act of mobility vs firepower is one that’s been going on for thousands of years. The ancient Japanese text “Bushido Shoshinsu” states:

    “Even if one is young and strong, furthermore, it makes sense to avoid heavy armor with thick metal, large banners, and large helmet crests. Armor made to match the strength of the prime of youth becomes useless when one gets older. Besides, no matter how young you are, if you are indisposed or wounded on the battlefield, even thin metal armor is sure to weigh you down and tire you out. This is why I say heavy armor is to be avoided.”

    While there is all manner of lightweight gear that can be discussed, the Holy Grail for the modern infantrymen is the lightening of one’s armor, (assuming no one has created an ammoless gun). Unlike your weapon, ammo, food, and water; armor is a detriment until the very moment that it saves your life. This is a whole lot of burden for such limited utility, yet the utility provided at that moment of need cannot be ignored. Luckily modern armor designs are starting to address this problem by cutting plate weights by up to half. Check these plates out and the accompanying review:

    *Multi Hit Capable
    *2.9lbs Per Plate
    *It floats
    *Drop Resistant/Maintenance Free / No Need to X-ray

    Now the catch is that these plates are Very Costly, but then so is over encumbrance. So if you can swing it they would be a worthwhile investment. Personally I’ve decided to go without plates for now until I’ve saved enough for this high end peace of kit. Till then old school fighting without armor will have to do.

  11. ckleerly says:

    Thanks for the continuing emphasis on “gear that works together”. I’ve always been partial to the belt rig but settled in when the war belt came on the market. Admittedly, my tribe was not warm and fuzzy to my war belt when first introduced. However, after our 2 mile stroll up the side of our favorite mountain in my full patrol layout (my patrol pack + war belt), this worked better than anything I’ve used in the past. In fact, when I first brought up the subject of combining our second line (fighting load) with our third line (sustainment load), crickets were heard. The fact is, most all of my group had not considered this. I believe they all thought they could simply throw on a patrol pack on top of their vests and go. Now, they all had patrol packs but had not combined the two. Vests have their place. I have my own. When it comes to dis-mounted infantry tactics, I “move,shoot and communicate” better with the patrol pack + war belt combonation.

    My layout includes(working counterclockwise from the front buckle):
    (1)2-G17 mag pouch
    (2)9-AR mags/3 taco+6 flap pouches
    (3)Rain gear w/top and bottoms
    (4)Maxpedition Utility pouch
    (5)Gerber LMF
    (6)Maxpedition Water Bottle holder
    (7)Multi-tool pouch
    (8)Flashlight pouch
    (9)Blowout Kit rides on my right front.

    My G17 rides on my right thigh. The patrol pack rides comfortably on the war belt. One important point I will include are suspenders. I use the Spec-Ops brand. These are superlow profile. They are unnoticeable under the patrol pack straps.

    Max, I have a question about what 3-4 days of rations look like for you. This would be a great subject to cover.

    Bitterly clinging,

    • Max Velocity says:

      Welcome, convert to the battle belt! We shall feast in Valhalla together 😉

      Rations: depends what you have. For now, let’s work with MREs. If packing for a patrol, you don’t just throw in 3 MRE’s per day based on a three meal per day regimen. If I was going out for 3-4 days, I would take 6 MREs and break them down. Keep the heaters. Pack 2 x entrees per day, one for morning, one for evening (depending on the routine you are following). Keep the high energy snacks such as pound cake for ‘lunch’ – eating through the day/night.

      You don’t get as hungry when out on patrol, even through your energy needs will be high. Suck it up till you get back and eat a big bowl of something.
      As well as those rations that you packed, you will have your 24 hour emergency rations in an admin pouch on your belt kit, in case you end up out for longer than intended.

      If you are more static and able to carry it in and cook (and it does not weigh much) then you can pack Ramen noodles in addition to the entrees. This means cooking on a stove, even a SOLO stove, with a pot, mess tin or metal mug. Cook up the Ramen and mix in the MRE entree. Add some curry powder that you carry. Big yummy scoff!

      That involves then cleaning your mess gear. Te interior can be just wiped out. Don’t dwell on it. Its the exterior that is the worst, if you cook on a dirty flame such as hexamine (solid fuel) etc. The base will be covered in carbon and will then get nasty. Best thing, rub it off on the ground, like a patch of moss or sand, and carry a small scrubber to take care of stubborn spots.

      • Submariner says:

        What is proper disposal of used MRE heaters, particularly at your training site?

        • Max Velocity says:

          You know the answer to this already, don’t you, you knowledgeable and well read scallywag you! 😉
          MRE heaters are hazardous waste until they have been activated. Once activated they can be disposed of as solid waste. So the truck, activate them even if you are not using them and then toss them in the trash.
          And scoff. Yes, not a word I hear in the USA, so I thought I would throw it out there….

          • Submariner says:

            They were introduced long after my time in the dirt. We used a heat tab in a C-ration can (tin.) I knew the heater was somehow toxic. Does one carry them in a ziploc bag to shield one from their toxicity as well as keep them dry? Do the heaters have any other use?

          • Max Velocity says:

            They come in a little plastic bag. You tear the top off, slide in the entree, and add a tiny bit of water: lay it on its side for 5 minutes, preferably in the entree cardboard box, and it is done. You can buy MREs on amazon so I suggest you try one.

      • Submariner says:

        Scoff. Interesting. I came across that word earlier today.

        “For emergency rations each soldier was to carry with him a one pound tin of prepared meat, one pound of biscuits and a packet containing small quantities of salt, sugar and tea.

        Rations were to be packed in boxes, each with the stamp of the “Senior Catering Officer Field Force” abbreviated to S.C.O.F.F., the abbreviation quickly becoming a word in the English language….”

        “Battlefield Rations: The Food Given to the British Soldier for Marching and Fighting 1900-2011” Chapter 1: The Boer War 1899-1902, p.13

  12. ckleerly says:

    Thanks for the ration info. I have a titanium cup that fits into the Maxpedition Water Bottle holder and conveniently accepts the Nalgene 32 oz. on the inside. For cooking, I prefer methyl alcohol with a Swedish Trangia stove. This set up is totally quiet and has no moving parts and none of the soot offered by the other methods mentioned. A 16 oz. bottle of methyl alcohol would last easily for the 3-4 day time. Other alcohols such as isopropyl (90%)will burn also.

    BTW, “Contact” is required reading for our tribe. Thanks for a great tool.


  13. […] operations, and not trying to carry everything on your back. I also talk about gear in my ‘Combat Patrol – Initial Report‘ […]

  14. […] which, as most of you know my friend Max Velocity is fond of, and you can read about it here.   Max has done many good gear overviews, and I encourage you to check out his site, I guarantee […]