Even though I didn’t have a previous review to look through, the difference between my abilities ONLY 8 months ago is crazy! It is fully attributed to the additional MVT classes I’ve taken and the work I put in on my own time to practice what I learn. For those of you who have attended a CTT class and think you’ve “got it”, this is your wake up call. As Max says, you might have a clue, but not much more. The complete collection of classes that MVT offers is holistic and utterly unrivalled. Sign up for them, be professional and apply yourself both during and after classes, and you can expect to be “truly dangerous”.
Force on Force is really where the rubber meets the road. In both FoF and the real world, “the enemy always gets a vote”. Until you are thrown into an experience where you DON’T know what’s going to happen (or even know what is going on RIGHT NOW, i.e. fog of war), you are only one step above academic. Processing and continuing to fight through situations that can only be experienced in FoF is a skill in itself. Things like: your friends, who were supposed to get the bad guys, just got annihilated; not knowing if your leader is still alive as you call out to him, receiving only silence in return; or feeling your stomach lurch as you start taking fire from an unprotected flank. Even at a basic level, aiming and firing at people (and getting shot at) is something many people need to overcome when first experiencing it- even in UTM FoF. Some people complain about the cost of UTM, but it provides us the ability to experience these things, and learn lessons that otherwise would be paid for in blood. If you have not experienced FoF, there is an entire world of skill you’re utterly ignorant of.
Another huge benefit to this class is that everyone can, and will, learn- no matter the skill level. FoF tests all the skills you’ve gained (or haven’t) up to this point. Things like fitness, marksmanship, application of fire, weapon manipulation, use of cover/concealment, communication, tactics, leadership, etc are all going to come into play on EVERY iteration. Depending on your skill, you will be working on different things. Although I would not recommend this for someone who has literally never even fired an AR15, if you at least know how to basically operate a carbine, this is a very approachable class. Your more experienced teammates will help you out. Remember, they want to be successful and so, they need you to be successful. Likewise, even if you’re an elite SOF jedi, you will still get value out of this.
I could give you a rundown of each day, but you can probably piece that together with other FoF reviews. Instead I want to share with you some helpful hints or lessons I learned this past weekend, in no particular order:
-When doing squad rehearsals, don’t gloss over anything and be rigorous in practicing. Next time around, it would be worthwhile getting the team into the tree line so that there’s coaching on, not only team movements and communication, but also individual skills like proper spacing, use of cover, sectors, etc. Train like you fight, right?
-As leader, strike a balance between decisive speed and tactical patience. Hesitation (both from the leader and at an individual level) can get you killed, but at the same time, you need to be able to take a pause long enough to think through what needs to happen next, in order to be successful.
-Camo/earth tones in general work, movement and sound is what will give you away. You would be surprised how close you can allow OPFOR to get to your hasty ambush before they notice you. Breaking up the outline of a helmet with some simple scrim helps a lot.
-Walking stealthily through the woods is a skill you need to practice. Fitness will make it easier for you to do so.
-As always, physical conditioning. If you aren’t in decent shape, you’re going to pay for it. If you’re in bad shape, you might be a liability to yourself and your team. Whatever gear you decide to use, make sure you can run around in it. Stop making excuses and invest some sweat equity into yourself. Likewise, as a leader, know the physical capabilities of your team and plan accordingly.
-Armor plates don’t really cover as much as you might think. I wore mine the entire weekend and I don’t think they ever “saved” me.
-Things happen incredibly quickly. Within seconds an element could be rolled up. With that said, UTM has less range (50m), less accuracy, and broadens the definition of cover in comparison to 5.56. Engagements with 5.56 will go down even faster, at longer ranges, with less cover.
-Target identification is critical, and much harder than “the internet” thinks. In the beginning, there were multiple friendly fire incidents- despite one team having blue tape on both arms!
-Be comfortable being uncomfortable. In our case it was hot and humid, and occasionally wet. Electrolyte replacement was critical. Don’t worry about the weather beyond its effect on the mission.
-Communication is one of the most important and difficult skills to grasp.
-You need to be periodically looking in towards your teammates and leaders. How else will you receive silent communication?
-No one used radios the entire weekend. The only time we wish we had radios was when two elements were out of sight of each other and there needed to be a change of plans. Being able to communicate with hand/arm signals and yelling, once things go loud, is a critical skill- a skill that needs to come before radio use.
-When you’re being told to do something by the leader, LISTEN! In many cases, people were just out of RAM and couldn’t process everything that was going on. But if you do hear your leader, respond/comply.
-Going rogue/ being random doesn’t work very well in SUT. There’s a fine line between intelligently taking the initiative and screwing things up. You might get lucky sometimes, but overall it’s probably going to get you or your team killed. You need to be a team player, always.
-After each iteration, there will be a debrief. Stow away your ego, shut up (no excuses), and try to absorb the feedback the cadre are giving. This includes learning from the mistakes of others, don’t just space off because they aren’t addressing YOU specifically.
-Every man is a sensor/linkman. Your leader can’t see everything, if you see “new information” you have to get that information to them. Likewise, if someone isn’t getting a message and you can relay it, do so.
-Being defensive/wary can give you a tactical advantage, but it’s going to cost you time. Sometimes significant amounts of time.
-Have at least one TQ, preferably more. There were a few preventable “deaths” this weekend.
-Although taking the high ground is often the right answer, there are perfectly good reasons not to (cover/concealment, speed, surprise, etc).
-I missed out on the optional intro to CQB day but would strongly recommend taking it if you have the time/funds. CQB is such a highly technical and perishable skill. The number one take away from those who did take it was, “I never want to have to do CQB in real life.” Having taken the full 3 day CQB course last month, I echo that sentiment. It’s particularly scary when you take into account the average 2×4 and dry wall home construction. If you’re able to, sign up for the optional day, it will be time well spent!
In summary, FoF training gives you the opportunity to face an intelligent, unpredictable, moving enemy under the watchful eye of cadre who will give feedback so that you learn from your mistakes. You cannot get this elsewhere. The skills you gain on the square range, or even in live fire team drills, will serve you well, but until you get experience actually fighting, you haven’t fully grasped what’s required to win. I would highly recommend this class, no matter your skill level, and suggest you retake it periodically to further hone your abilities. It is courses like this that make you “truly dangerous to your enemies”.
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