Civilian Volunteer Teams: The Leadership Issue

Student Review: Land Navigation 20/21 June 2015: ‘Jane’
June 23, 2015
July 10-12 Weekend: CTT & C3
June 25, 2015


I received the following email from a multiple-Alumni ‘Doc.’ I’ll give full attribution if he gets back to me and allows it. The email is an example of the quality of student that we have through MVT classes: on the whole, intelligent, professional and socially aware. As he states, this is both an overall strength, and when it comes to combat, a potential weakness:

Having spent the last few months reflecting on the training I have had the honor to receive at your various classes (CTT, patrol), I have found that one particular message has crystallized in my mind. It is an obvious but subtle lesson that was not clearly articulated until the last day of Patrol class.

Universally, the individuals who take the initiative to train and prepare for unrest are intelligent, motivated self-starters – exactly the type who may be called on to lead in a time of disruption.  This very attribute can make for difficulties in the smooth and coherent operation of a small infantry unit.

In combat, there can only be one leader.  Questioning and explanations have a place in training; but, for example, when running a live drill like an assault, rapid and complete obedience to the leader’s commands is imperative.  In the real world, hesitation or dissent can have fatal results.  Trust and faith in leaders is not optional.

Now, this trust is earned through experience and shared suffering, but a firefight is not a time for democracy.  This seems blindingly obvious, but we saw the results during our retreat from the last day’s raid in CP class.  A simple “line up – single line by squad” command turned into a squabble about who stood where, while the simulated QRF was inbound to destroy us all.

This lesson is blindingly obvious to all with military experience, but to individual-minded civilians it is not.  This is one aspect that will be the Achilles heel of cobbled-together small units in future.  I would ask that you perhaps write your thoughts on this for the group, and perhaps increase your emphasis on this small but critical point during classes.

Thanks for all you do

Well, I have touched on this in many ways and many posts in the past. Some would make this a political point – the so called ‘anarchist’ or ‘voluntarist’ point of view where they see doing anyone else’s bidding as ‘submission to the man’ or collectivism, or alternatively they will only fill their part in a team so long as it is voluntary, which is code for “I’ll undermine the leader and fuk it all up just as soon as I get a little upset.”


Read the rest on the MVT Forum:  Forums Tactics & Leadership Teamwork & Leadership



  1. Doc says:



  2. Bergmann says:

    Having had issues with the demented types who seek to undermine a groups cohesion-i have often wondered what will actually happen in a situation where a collapse has let loose the maniacs of society that dwell in some mens minds. We’ve all seen what comes our way in terms of training when they need some mask thats only restricted by social norms and fear of the law..

    Its been my experience that when someone acts like that its usually a glimpse of a symptom with deeper issues and what you actually witnessed is a small portion of the damage they have already done with others with their own toxic behavior and personality…. A cross hook to the face would probably just serve to prove their points they have surely already embedded in others and cause more discontent and drama..

    Whats more is whats do you do with such a person when the problem cannot be fixed? The majority of such personalities cannot be salvaged. Banish them to come back later for revenge or worse inform on you?

    I have a few ideas but….

    Its my opinion that there will be a huge mental issue to plague post collapse communities and groups.


  3. Anne says:

    Hi, voluntarist/anarchist here. I have no problem with anything you’ve said. 🙂

  4. Diz says:

    Anne that is too funny. Sounds like one of those political adds…and I approve of this message.

    Man, this is a tough issue, even more so today, within our present culture.

    Perhaps it’s an issue of education, in that you have to explain this better to guys that show up to train. Those that get, get it. Those that don’t, well, Bergman has plans for you.

    I think the assumption is that we all show up to train, and are going to do our best to support the group effort in this regard. But the reality of it is that some guys just don’t play well with others. In fact, this may be a huge portion of our society right now. Judging from traffic around here.

    In the military, you are paid to get thrashed, well nominally. In class, you pay for the privilege of being thrashed. This presents some problems. How do you train to a standard, and still run a successful business? Imagine an army where all the privates are paying for the privilege of soldiering. At what point would this break down? I imagine right after the first firefight. This is the situation we find ourselves in. It’s nothing new, just look at history, but it’s made worse by the present state of affairs.

    I don’t pretend to have all the answers here. But I do think it’s a good idea to stress this point before classes.

  5. WTL says:

    I think this entire theme is worthy of a briefing from Max before every class. I know I could have used it 😉

    An enviro in which “people play well with others” can only exist (Yes, I get there are hardcases) if you understand and consent to the rules you’re all playing by, no? In the real world, those rules differ from organization to organization. Certainly so between the civilian and military world.

    Having a better handle on what’s expected of students in the context of a training class would enhance the experience for everyone I would think. Maybe even learn something about dealing with it real world should the need ever arise.

    • Max Velocity says:

      Let me just steer this gently back on track. Both you and Diz are commenting, because you know that you were in the class that inspired the original “leader & Led’ post. However, this isn’t about that. It isn’t really about MVT classes at all – that wasn’t Doc’s request. In fact, in classes, we do a very swift job of creating teamwork in short order (with notable exceptions!)

      Ask Shooter about the little talk I gave in the bunkhouse on the Texas class: sometimes I feel the need to nudge things in the right direction, other times not. It’s just a case of nudging disparate strangers towards teamwork, which usually works. But as has been commented, they are all invested when they are at a class. So what this is really about is non-class real world situations, when people need to work together, and may be used to being the big dog in their line of work, but perhaps are not tactically. Lots of wannabe chiefs, but more Indians required.

      • shooter says:

        Yes Max, it was a masterful “nudge” that got everybody thinking outside the individual/civvie/class oriented box that our heads were in.

        To comment on the issue of wannbe chiefs vs. Indians: Maybe different in the “shooting” world, since shooters who have enough self discipline to actually TRAIN are pretty independent minded, self-starter types, but in the “normal” world, my experience is that when there is truly hard work to be done, there are SHITLOADS of wannabe bystanders, a whole bunch of Indians and not very many chiefs. The chiefs step up and do it because it needs to be done and nobody else wants to. I’m not talking about “poser” politician types, or super-ego dickheads who think they’re always going to be the Alpha male, both of which I would hope will be swiftly brushed aside in a true SHTF situation.

      • Owl21 says:

        “No Martyrs…”

        I still use that in everyday life. It was a very powerful nudge. I look at everything differently now – personal relationships, family, and work, not just training.

  6. WTL says:

    I’m commenting because what happened was a microcosm of this larger issue. No big deal in the scheme of things but it opened my eyes to something I hadn’t even considered prior. I find it a fascinating challenge to overcome – not just in training classes but in general.

    The concept of chain of command has long been aborted from most civilian organizations within small groups. Collaboration is the new way. Obviously this is pretty antithetical to a working combat group.

    And you’re right – more Indians ARE required. But as Diz suggested, there simply aren’t many Indians left in our culture. Everyone wants to be a Chief. I agree.

    Like you always expound: great shooters without proper tactics are pretty useless. Likewise, great tactics without effective organization are equally, if not more, impotent.

    Personally, I see absolutely NO WAY to run any sort of effective defense organization under anything but the strictest military standards of conduct – and that’s coming from a civilian. Democracy has no place in military affairs.

    But will independent, free-willed patriots submit to this?

  7. TnMichael says:

    Great discussion. WTL you’ve hit the nail on the head, I’ve discussed this with people I train with…military type organization ideas are the only way that this will work. I’ve seen that generally speaking guys who’ve served in some type of military service at least have an idea about hierarchy and following “orders” in a team. The “civilians” seem to suffer from much more butthurt, then take their toys and go home! In this culture I call it “disposable friendships”…being in the military seems to inure you to having a bollixing when appropriate and recovering and moving on. In our civilian context finding the correct blend of knowing when to push/correct someone and not running them off is the problem I’ve found….of course some need being run off! Of course there are exceptions to this, I’ve got several, thank God. Thanks for the great discussions here, I’m always learning from Max and cadre.

  8. ApoloDoc says:

    Great thoughts…but let me comment from >30 yrs in my profession: there are very few FATHERS in our culture today, hence very little real training in leadership (both for leaders AND followers). “Every kid gets a trophy” leads to relativism in assessing outcomes. So how to achieve and evaluate success is a foreign concept.

    Medical training, like military training, is VERY authoritarian. Learning to TAKE orders is absolutely mandatory before one can learn to GIVE orders. In human development this really should solidify during adolescence, but that requires fathers as leaders. We have seen Homer Simpson for 20+ yrs and that has become the typical father. NO LEADERSHIP.

    Go check out “the projects” sometime. See how many fathers (not sperms donors) you see. Gangs become the father figures, just a bunch older teens who had no one to lead them.

    Sports actually can serve this role fairly effectively for a number of young people, depending on the coaches.

    It is clear that EXTENSIVE training as a group will be optimal to develop the necessary leadership roles. That is going to be a tall order in many situations.