First Sergeant Sends: You, Your Rifle and Ivan

Idaho Class: Photos
May 26, 2016
Idaho Mobility Class: Photos
May 27, 2016



You, Your Rifle and Ivan 

On day one of Combat Team Tactics (CTT) we start telling students about the importance of scanning and of getting your head out of your rifle. Students are given a demonstration by Max and I on how to scan and what you are looking for and how to get your head out of your rifle. We reiterate it throughout all of day one.

On day 2 we head over to the tactical ranges. After another brief from Max on the importance of scanning, getting your head out of your rifle and to slow it down and think about what you are doing, Max and I give a demonstration on how to shoot, move and communicate. We then get the first pair ready for their first run. What do you think happens when the target comes up? Students get sucked in to shooting at Ivan and watching him pop up, get shot, go down and pop back up so you can shoot him and the cycle starts all over again. There is no communication, so there is no moving.It’s all about you, your rifle and Ivan

Some students will be former military that have experience with it and it shows. Returning alumni will also be better at it. But for the most part the only experience students will have is what they have read on the internet, in books or videos they have watched. None of those platforms are a substitute for getting out and doing it live and in person.

We understand that you are coming to CTT to learn how to work as a team and will have little to no experience with actually doing it. We don’t expect you to be able to work as a fully integrated member of a fire team at the end of three days. We want you to have a working knowledge of basic team tactics. The amount of new information can and will be overwhelming at first. According to returning students, some of it didn’t really click until after they had been home for a few days. They also state that going through CCT again makes things even more clear. Not to mention reading Contact after CTT class. The book will make more sense. You should still read it before coming to class.

There is a reason that we put so much emphasis on the move and communicate of that triumvirate. The shooting part is easy. You see the target, you shoot it. It’s when you have to start communicating that things start to fall apart. Without the communication there is no movement. Without communication there is no target identification. You may see the target but your buddy may not and he is wondering what the hell you are shooting at. But it’s all about you, your rifle and Ivan.

Until you can effectively communicate you will not be able to function as a team. Communication, even though listed last, is the most important part of the triumvirate. Communication will allow you to fight forward and kill the bad guys, break contact, know if your buddy’s rifle has a stoppage and let him know if you have one.  But it’s all about you, your rifle and Ivan.


Know what else is part of communication? Scanning. If you are not constantly scanning, you have no idea what is going on around you. Is your buddy hit and out of the fight? Are the bad guys trying to outflank you? Those of you that attended Force on Force Team Tactics (FoF) learned that lesson, didn’t you? Have more bad guys popped up to your left and right? Closer to you? Further away? You have to periodically get your head out of your rifle and actually see what is going on around you. Not some kabuki theater square range dance. You have to actually look and see what is going on. Look through the trees and not at them. Look at the folds in the ground. Look at the terrain. But it’s all about you, your rifle and Ivan.

Now it’s time to move. Your buddy is effectively suppressing the enemy position. He tells you to move. But you didn’t hear it. You are focused on shooting the enemy. The noise is unlike anything you have ever heard. It’s all about you, your rifle and Ivan.

Notice a theme?


People will react differently when under fire. For some, time slows down. Others it speeds up. Tunnel vision. Auditory exclusion happens to some and others can hear everything that goes on. You have no idea how you are going to react. The only way to force your way through any of those is to train. As realistically as possible. You have to be able to break the cycle of you, your rifle and Ivan.

The combat fairy is not going to come down and bonk you on the head with his wand and magically give you all the knowledge that you need to survive a fight. You have to put a lot of time, sweat and brainpower into the training before hand. If you don’t, you won’t survive long. Maybe long enough to figure out that you should have trained more. And Murphy has a vote to. But the more you do to prepare for it, the better off you will be in the long run.

And one last thing, it ain’t about you. It never has been and it never will be.



  1. Robert says:

    Can I get an amen!! Great job.

    I think as “shooters” we come into this sort of thing too focused on well, the shooting aspect of it. I’ve watched guys so focused on that, their mind “in the tube” of their sight, that they totally missed the fact that most of the team already pulled back and they are there on their own. Not a good thing.

    I think most students focus on the shooting aspect more cause it gives them feedback, i.e, hitting or not. Especially with the good targets you all have, you know immediately or not. Sometimes it’s play too- “I dropped Ivan, I’ll see if I can drop him again as soon as he pops back up.” I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t played that game before 🙂

    For most students, I’m guessing this training opens a door to a big wide world, wherein they used to just be in a little closet with just “you, your rifle and Ivan.”

    But to excel, scratch that, to SURVIVE we have to get out of that little closet and come into the big wide world.

    To never take your training past standing in place and perforating paper essentially just converting money into sound, and never being willing to PUSH yourself into new skills, is basically ballistic masturbation.

    That’s not conducive to surviving a gunfight.

    • Wes says:

      Good points, Robert…especially the last one. Although, “ballistic masturbation” is fun; it amounts to nothing more than instantaneous gratification and a waste of time. 🙂

  2. SOL says:

    Some time back I attended a “basics” class locally. We did a dry run that consisted of going to three positions, advancing on a target starting with run to prone, “fire”, change mags, go to crouch/sitting, repeat sequence and then to standing, repeat sequence. One of MVT’s alumni went first and smoked the cold course, communicating, moving, “shooting”. I went second, and tried to emulate his actions. It was like sensory overload. I had mags flying out of my pouches on to the ground, words were flying out of my mouth that didn’t make sense- yelling moving when I was changing mags, yelling empty when I ran to the next position, nearly falling trying to scurry. Ended up dumping three mags on the ground in three mag changes. It was a shocking lesson about slow is fast and SMC.

  3. robroysimmons says:

    At WRSA even Max’s buddy Sean wholeheartedly agrees with this