MVT: Retrospective & Looking to 2018

I just completed my final class of the year, and I’m looking to consolidating over the winter, do some writing, and prep for 2018. Some of what was said in the class after action on Sunday got me to thinking, hence this look back and forward to what we are doing with MVT. Last weekend was of course not the last class at the Velocity Training Center (VTC – Romney, WV) for this year; we still have a Defensive Concealed Handgun class December 1-2.

We ran the first MVT class in May 2013 on the property we had purchased, and began to develop the new facility into an excellent small unit tactics training venue. The terrain is perfect for the purpose, but there was nothing there. We started with 4 electronic pop-up target systems, a tarp as a schoolhouse, and two valleys that I had begun to develop into tactical ranges 1 & 2. I also look back and realize my naievete at the time, with this first escapade into training the armed citizen. We started with a simple 2 Day ‘CRCD’ class, and I had made the mistake of believing what people say / believe about their competency with running their rifle under conditions of stress. Thinking back, I believe that the word that was going around in some quarters about ‘yelling’ at MVT probably stemmed from this. What do I mean? Back in the days of CRCD, we had guys pretty much going straight into fire and maneuver on the Saturday, after a suitable safety brief and some RTR drills. But it takes more than that to inculcate weapons handling into people, particularly ‘in the wild’ on the tactical ranges. Thus we had delays due to poor weapons handling (‘camping on the X’) and also safety stops to either reset the drill or stress a safety point by jumping all over people. Compare that to this past weekend, where we ran Combat Team Tactics, where I had to call “STOP” only once on the ranges, and that was due to a confusion of the final drill on the Sunday, on the shift between peeling and bounding. So I think that rather than my ‘mellowing’ as people tell me, it is rather more to do with the curriculum catching up to what is really needed, with what is after all a fast-track into Small Unit Tactics. We were initially perhaps over optimistic with what we expected of students, and have corrected that as the last four years have passed.

Since those days, the VTC really has developed into a first class facility, the curriculum along with it. We have developed:

  • Tac Ranges 1 & 2 (the originals) are now developed fully up the valleys, with clearance and target pits as appropriate.
  • We built a ‘raid range’ enemy patrol base in another valley for the patrol class.
  • Live fire / UTM ambush sites across the site.
  • We have UTM objectives all over the site.
  • We built 2 x flat ranges, cut out of the hillsides, to support our weapon handling and combat marksmanship curriculum.
  • A scenario / UTM / CQB hut site.
  • A 1000 yard ‘three valley’ long range marksmanship range, with steel. A really interesting and challenging shoot.
  • A Team Cabin / Classroom at the campsite.
  • We utilize not only pop-up and static Ivan targets, but also mannikins on the ranges to increase realism.
  • Better road system and ATV trails.

Over the winter, the following is planned:

  • Further improvements / target pits on Tac Ranges 1  & 2 to create better hasty attack / advance to contact positions complete with pop-up targets and mannikins.
  • Improved road system / new culvert for access to the team cabin / campsite area.
  • Improvements to the team cabin, now dried in, to electrify, insulate, sheath etc.
  • Expand / improve the LZ up on the ridge meadow.
  • Build another scenario / UTM hut site below the LZ, so we will have huts on each side of the VTC for training use. Any guesses why we will build them below the new LZ / fast rope location? ;-)
  • New road cut up past the top flat range up to the LZ and then on up to the long range firing point – so we can get trucks up there / parking, making it easier for long range classes.
  • New ATV road cut down from the trail on the ridge above the schoolhouse / pavilion (left / south of tac range 2) to connect the ATV trail circuit. This can also be used for fitness / challenge events to make a circuit.
  • (Note: Kevin is coming back to do the dirt work. He does all the earth moving at the VTC, despite dying heroically on the Romney Bridge in his loader as part of the Battle of Romney (Patriot Rising) – he doesn’t know that though ;-)

It is no secret that active duty SOF have discovered the VTC and all the benefits it brings as a training area, and teams have been coming up to train. We have had full auto belt feds, demolitions, blowing up trees, night UTM raids, fast roping into live and UTM attacks, Razr extractions from contact will full auto belt feds mounted and firing on the move. It’s been pretty cool. These teams do a mix of taking our classes or using us to facilitate their team training objectives on the ranges. Alumni have been invited to be OPFOR for the full mission profile UTM scenarios. The great thing is that the teams bring new eyes to how to use the VTC, and we have begun incorporating that into the facility, and thus improving the training we offer on the civilian side. For example, the new target pits / positions for the hasty attack / assault through comes from a team deciding 2 x pop-ups were not enough, so they set out a bunch of steel and stick-ins in addition, then proceeded to shoot the crap out of it in the assault. So, not to be outdone, we are going to dig the target pits in so that whole scenario can be done against pop-ups supported by mannikin bodies on the objective. We just keep getting better, there is no end to how we will continue to improve this facility.

One of the key things is that MVT has continued to attract quality cadre. Scott (‘First Sergeant’) is a regular feature with me at classes and also running his CRS (HEMS for 2018) and DCH classes. He will shortly be adding his schedule for 2018 first 6 months to the calendar. Chris unfortunately moved out to Washington State and has thus not been seen for a while. John is in a period of transition up in NY State but at some point I hope to hear for him about CQBC and LRMS classes for 2018.

We thus began with our 2 day CRCD classes and have expanded the curriculum significantly. Given the points I raised above, we have also improved the curriculum, and the capability of the cadre and facility to support that. We are trying to distill the essence of combat down to what are in all actuality very short classes, in order to give you a clue and improve your chances of survival. You cannot view a class at MVT as a ‘one and done’ and the class offerings support both the other classes, and repetition – you have to invest in this training for it to be beneficial, to invest in yourself and your capability to defend yourself and your loved ones. Thus CRCD became the 3 day CTT with optional Rifle Skills preceding that. For 2018, that will become a 4 Day HEAT 1 class, and we are bringing in fitness prerequisites. All of these changes are designed to improve your training experience and give you a better result for the time and expense that you are investing into this. Thus, between the fitness prerequisites and the comprehensive weapon handling and combat marksmanship of the first 2 days of HEAT 1 (same as the HEMS class) you are better able to hit the Tac Ranges with a greater ability to learn, and less chance of safety infringements, simply because you are in a better place with your weapon handling. Thus less yelling of “STOP” during drills and lectures on safety and efficient ways to manipulate the weapon. Because quite frankly, the vast majority of you will die simply because you cannot effectively and efficiently manipulate the weapon under combat conditions. But if you have not been to MVT, you probably don’t know that.

One of the themes is that when you train at MVT, we are taking you out into an unknown environment where you do not know where the enemy will pop up from. One of the huge benefits of this sort of training is the scanning / awareness / communication and reaction to unexpected situations that you encounter. We are trying to make it as realistic as possible within a safe training environment. Thus, it is combat inoculation, giving you a chance should you ever experience the real deal. Those that think they are getting ‘tactical training’ but never move off the flat range are basically kidding themselves, and instructors are selling snake oil – this is partly why you see so many pointless drills on YouTube and Instagram, because there is only so much weapon handling and drills that you can do, before you have to get creative, unless you take the next step into the progression and move to actual tactical range training. Yes, we know that at MVT we are very much in the minority as a boutique operation, but we are doing it right. What is taken for granted by many as ‘tactical training’ in the mainstream is a crock. But doing what we do is a challenge, which requires the right background, facility and equipment. Overall, it requires passion, not a motivation for an easy buck on a flat range. We could not bring you this training, which is exhausting for us both in the preparation and delivery, without the passion.

The addition of UTM Man Marker Rounds to the training, and thus the offering of Force on Force and CQB classes, has been a huge benefit to the curriculum. This offers an additional facet to training which reinforces that which is learned on the live fire ranges. I am not aware of a better technology to better simulate close combat – with a near miss, the UTM round even zips past like a live round, giving you a clue! Thus in force on force you are maneuvering against a live enemy who is making decisions and gets a vote. Watch the flank! In CQB, we have the opportunity to run drills both force on force and force on target with a flexibility and safety factor that is not seen with live fire CQB. Fighting live persons in structures is simply excellent CQB training value. I did ask the SOF teams if they were satisfied with the UTM training facilities, and if they wanted me to build a live fire shoot house, dreading the answer in terms of affordability. They told me no, they get better training benefit from the UTM scenarios with OPFOR.

One of the things that was raised at this Sunday’s AAR, were things that I was not hearing for the first time. Examples:

  • Friends / training partners, even some who are very active in flat range training, were not willing to come to an MVT class because ….well, frankly, because it seems like we are a little too serious. I guess the website is intimidating. But if they were to make the journey, they would find classmates who are largely professionals, civilized, personable, and learning themselves.
  • Fear of failure – again, related to the above, we had one individual who stated as such in the AAR. He was intimidated by coming to an MVT class. The classes are a progression, and the curriculum is designed as such, crawl-walk-run, which will be even more effective in 2018 with the 4 day HEAT 1 class. Yes, we as cadre do not sugar-coat things and we will not tuck you in with a Krispy Kreme after a lane on the tactical ranges. We will tell you straight, and you will learn. To do otherwise would be a disservice, and will not help your survivability. Nothing at the VTC is personal, and we could not bring you the passion and the quality of training if we did not care.  We care about successful outcomes, your safety, and developing competence.
  • One individual stated that he had booked and paid for the class a year before and was shitting bricks ever since – he was concerned not only with failure, but of literally getting shot in the back. I really do understand this fear, better than you may think. It is rooted in simply not knowing, in lacking a frame of reference. Of course, we know that we have created a quality class with as many safety features as possible. But if your frame of reference does not include tactical training, and maybe you have been to a public range, you can be forgiven for thinking that at MVT it is a bunch of yahoos running around in the woods with live rounds flying in all directions. I get that. This individual stated that as soon as he got there and started training, he knew that his fear was not an issue. He experienced what we do at the VTC.
  • All of these students need the credit they deserve for showing up despite their fears. There is really nothing I can do to allay that in newbies, other than by AARs / Reviews from students talking about it. The bottom line is that if you want to get in any way competent at SUT, and thus increase your chances of survival for you and your loved ones, you need to attend this training.

The ‘Prepper Thing’: It is true that MVT ‘came up’ via the prepping world. I wrote the manual ‘Contact!’ in order to try and increase the chances of survival of preppers against all the bad information I saw out there. I then began the training facility/ classes in order to “keep good folks alive.” But MVT is nothing more or less than a professional tactical training establishment. We are not a political organization, or with any sort of agenda to support whatever you think yours is. We are political only in that we believe in Liberty and the right to keep and bear arms, which I do admit puts us somewhere on the political spectrum – are not all things in life political to some extent? I personally am a rational, common sense individual who believes in preparedness because that is just the right thing to do. But I have been off-put from even the word ‘prepper’ by the madness I see out there. I have seen the clientele at the VTC change over the past 4 years, much of which has to do with the increasing professionalization and development of both the curriculum and the facility. Thus, classes have got a little harder and better. We do not get just ‘preppers’ anymore, but people who are more interested in the tactical side – thus they are less hoarder prepper types and more tactically minded. There is really no way now that anyone can confuse what we do at MVT with a tactical fantasy prepper camp. You need to do a modicum of PT. You need to make an effort. You can no longer expect to show up for a 2 day CRCD class and ‘tick the box’ for tactical preparedness. No, you are only getting started . Just in the same way you cannot buy that equipment and put it on the shelf, expecting to use it effectively one day.

The bottom line is, that if you hope to survive in a potential combat situation (however much you plan on avoidance as a threat mitigation strategy) you need to train for it. SUT is light infantry tactics, adapted for civilians. This is not a word game over terms such a prepper, or survivalist, or whether you are a light infantryman or not. No, you are not, but if you expect to operate either alone or as a team, what you are doing is leveraging adapted light infantry tactics. You can call it unconventional warfare, you can call it whatever special name you want, but it boils down to light infantry tactics. That requires training, physical fitness, mental acuity. Anything else is fantasy and denial.

I am always amazed when I go out there onto the interwebz and read some of this prepper stuff. There is too much fantasy, conspiracy and paranoia out there. It is embarrassing. I read articles submitted to SurvivalBlog and continue to read about harnessing to garden carts, and endless rabbit holes on caliber, opinion on task organizing fire teams and weapons that clearly have no basis in reality and experience and are wholly impractical (one referenced my post on the maneuver support group, which is how my attention was drawn to it). Wow. Here is a tip: there are experienced subject matter experts out here, such as MVT, who can help you with this, and prevent you from needing to try and reinvent the wheel.

We at MVT realize that we are a fairly boutique operation. The prepper demographic often puts them outside of any sort of group which would consider real tactical training. People are out of shape and do not train sufficiently to be effective tactically. Many are older – the tip there is to develop a tribe which includes younger types who can do the tactical heavy lifting for you. But MVT exists in a place at the intersection of prepared and tactically minded individuals with an interest in being effectively tactically prepared. Many do it as a challenging hobby. There is that overused saying that amateurs study tactics, and professionals study logistics – true if you are fighting a global / nation state conflict predicated on access to strategic resources and manpower. Normandy invasion anyone? However, at the family / group level, this is mostly flipped, with most who consider themselves preppers actually having the ‘logistical’ side squared away, in the form of a hoard of mountain house in the basement (yes, I have a small hoard myself….). What they do not have squared away is the physical or mental fitness, and the tactical wherewithal, to defend it.

This is at bottom why people have heard me being critical of preppers, who you would otherwise think are the ‘base’ of MVT. Probably not so, the tactically interested self-starters are the base, and preppers are a frustrating demographic who seem stuck in their ways and not likely to be open to attending training. By which I stereotype a large part of the ‘prepper’ demographic.

This is also partly why we started TacGun. TacGun is a slow burning fuse that will take time to gain understanding of its purpose and utility. The idea is to popularize SUT away from connotations with ‘preppers’ and ‘militia,’ all of which turn many off. It turns me off. Think about it, who wants to get involved with ‘Doomsday Preppers’ or ‘Right Wing Nut Militia’? Just be realistic about it. Not many of the younger fitter keener types who you may want as part of your tribe. Those guys are probably the ones stuck fooling themselves and playing tactical dress up on cool-guy flat ranges – any mention of SUT has them going into sweats, rightly or wrongly, with all the connotations to prepping and militia. And let’s face it, many ‘preppers’ and ‘militia’ are their own absolute worst enemy. So, here at MVT, we go our own way. Rational, common sense tactical preparedness which has benefits for you in the here and now: teamwork, leadership, communication, physical fitness, decision making, all that. You know, how it should be. We are unapologetic.

As we head towards 2018, we are in the process of making updates to the VTC over the winter. I have published the schedule up to June 2018, with some classes run by Scott and John yet to be added. We will be doing less mobile classes (Texas 2018, year 4 of that class, is available for registration). This is simply because the VTC is such a good training facility and efforts should be concentrated on that. For those who need to travel, I have brought back the 6 day combined class, with one scheduled in May. Before I stopped it, that was always a very popular class for people wanting to get more out of their travel to the VTC. Fitness prerequisites apply!

I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving. I am out of the office for the week, with a sick youngest baby. I’m also taking a bit of a rest. I am active on the MVT Forum, which is a pay forum at $25 per year. Best decision ever, even though the numbers are not huge due to the subscription – signal to noise ratio is brilliant, and you can leverage some knowledge and experience if you join. We don’t do flame wars etc on the MVT Forum.

Happy Thanksgiving.