Combat Patrol 18-20 Jan 2014 AAR #5 – ApoloDoc

AAR – Combat Patrol Class
An after-action review of the inaugural Combat Patrol Class run by Max Velocity January 18-20 2014
written by ApoloDoc.
I have written of my first exposure to training with Max Velocity in a piece I titled “Walking in a Winter Wonderland.” That December 2013 class was a lot of fun and was made more interesting by a good bit of snow on the ground. For someone with ZERO infantry training, it was an awesome introduction. The impression of Max that I had from reading much of his writings was confirmed: a great guy who is not only knowledgeable and skilled but a very capable teacher. I then debated the trip back for his patrol class. A 600 mile drive is not trivial, and combined with the total cost of the trip (fees, lodging, food, ammo) it was clear that this would be a major investment.
Was it as much fun as the CRCD class (2 day intro)? Were the gains worth the cost? Read on my friends.
This class begins where the CRCD class leaves off. We began working on drills using 2 four-man fire teams with the 9th student acting as a squad leader. New move and fire techniques were taught on a whiteboard, dry run rehearsals were practiced until Max was satisfied, and then live-fire exercises on a 3-dimensional range were performed. Safety is paramount with Max and at no time did I have any concern that I might be injured by negligent firing. To further ensure safety, we all loaded a checked and marked empty magazine on Sunday evening when setting up the patrol base. This stayed in each rifle until the morning stand-to on Monday.
JC Dodge of Mason Dixon Tactical was a “special guest star” instructor for the weekend and was a great addition. Although he and Max teach the same concepts, there were times when discussion yielded a slightly different perspective which was a bonus. His presence allowed each fire team to have an instructor when operating somewhat distant from each other.
There are other reports detailing the specific drills, so I won’t go into that. The real deal was an overland ruck Sunday afternoon in awesome terrain, setting up a hasty ambush while Max and the squad leader moved ahead to scout the area for the Patrol Base, and then move into Patrol Base Operations. As an experienced backpacker I will confess that I was not all that well prepared for the priorities of a patrol base. Setting up in a defensible position is QUITE DIFFERENT from siting a backcountry primitive campsite. Maintaining a “tactical mindset” (basically role-playing in my mind that this was a true life-and-death scenario) was crucial, especially when standing a frigid watch at 2am. I cannot overstate the importance of the experiential learning I gained by standing watch in the cold when fatigued from operating for almost 24hrs by that point.
Earlier that evening our two four-man fire teams each went out on separate recon missions. Our team took an incredibly arduous approach to the objective (MV: self-selected!). Maintaining the “tactical mindset” was important for moving as silently as possible, watching for ‘enemies’ in the area, and avoiding vehicles on the road. Max was driving around in his 4-wheel ranger to the ‘bad guys’ point, and a couple of times we had to HASTILY jump down into a dry creek bed to avoid detection! Realism at 11pm in 20 deg temps! I had recently obtained night vision gear, and this was my first time of actually walking about in the dark with it. As an aside, as the least experienced and least trained person there, I also benefited from the more experienced students, who were quick to provide gentle correction or reminders to me. I felt like I was surrounded by skilled instructors all of the time!
That exercise concluded at midnight, we debriefed with the commander (Max), and moved back into the patrol base for sentry/sleep rotation. Following the morning stand-to we had further live fire drills.
Before lunch we set up and executed a planned ambush of enemy troops, and then after lunch the class concluded with an assault on the enemy camp that we had recce’d the night before. This action had both a four man fire support team (with JC overseeing that part of the operation) and a four man assault team led by Max. The learning and the real-world experience were amazing!
What about the weather? After all this was West Virginia mountain terrain in late January! For my second trip to MVT we only had brief snow flurries, but the overall temps were even colder than last time. This had a significant impact on the ‘fun’ quotient. I had identified a piece of gear I wanted but was unable to obtain it prior to the trip (Hill People Gear “Mountain Serape”). I am convinced that it would have had a very positive impact for me, both during the lecture phases as well as living/working out of the patrol base Sunday and Monday. All of us learned a great deal about what gear worked and what gear did not work!
Let me conclude by returning to my initial two questions: fun and cost/benefit. Overall this class was a lot less fun than the CRCD class…and that is of necessity. A real-world patrol operation is not going to be fun. The patrol base is set up for a purpose, not for comfort. Standing watch in freezing temps is no fun. Try to sleep in challenging terrain in close quarters with others (some of whom had no trouble sleeping and snore like prehistoric animals) was problematic. I didn’t sleep. Although that didn’t always help my mood, I did find that I was able to perform well due to adrenalin and motivation during the exercises that followed. And if I haven’t been clear enough, it was COLD! So the fun meter bounced up and down a lot for me. But this is not about fun now, is it?
Cost/benefit: here is where the rubber meets the road. For me there was >1200 miles driving, 600rds ammo (estimate, I really didn’t count), motel stays 2 nights in Romney plus a Monday night in Virginia (with a HUGE winter storm blowing in), food, gear…it does add up. The fee that Max charges ($500 for the 3 days) is trivial for what he provides. Then there is another unanticipated expense: buying gear that better suits the purpose of a combat patrol operation! The other students came from closer locations which helps with cost…well…except for my battle buddy who had flown in from Montana! Talk about commitment!
Was it worth it? Well, that depends. If this is just some sort of silly big-boy game with no real-world application it would not be worth it. Quite frankly there was a lot of hard work for this to simply be about having a good time out in the woods. His 2 day class was a lot more fun vs. work. This class is serious business. So IF there ever comes a time when the fabric of our society tears and we have a loss of law and order, IF there comes a time when one needs to take up arms to defend oneself and our loved ones, IF one wants to actually be effective in fire and movement, THEN this class will have been VERY WELL WORTH IT.
I view this as an investment. Some people believe that the most important thing that they can do for their future is fund a 401-k. Others distrust the current economy and are converting money into precious metals. Many are working to stockpile food and other necessities of life. I believe that all of this may be important, but if one cannot protect oneself and loved-ones, the rest doesn’t really matter now, does it? I hope that I never need to use any of this. From what I see happening in our country, the probability of needing these skills seems more likely than not.
Give strong consideration to training with Max. You will not be disappointed. You will be far better prepared for what may come in the future.