Review: Combat Leader Course (CLC) April 2017: ‘Tango’

Google “leadership” and it will net you 787,000,000 results. Search Amazon for “leadership book” and it will net you 206,850 results. Merriam Webster defines leadership as “the action of leading a group of people or an organization” – about as broad of a definition as you can get. Suffice to say the topic of leadership is not a finite concept. Also suffice to say that with that much interest everybody has realized how important and relevant the skill of leadership is to their lives.

If you’re looking at this class and think “Combat Leadership” means this only applies to combat, you would be sorely mistaken. Leadership is a universal skill – whether you’re in the board room, raising children, flying a plane, directing a symphony, or fighting a fire. We can all recognize who the leader is in any given situation. Wouldn’t it be great if everyone looked around and knew that person was you?

That last line played to your ego a bit. Truth is, you will never be a leader if you don’t believe you can do so – the ego is a requirement. Also true, you will be an awful tyrant if you believe you are entitled to do so – the ego is a detriment. That’s a part of the constant dichotomy. Leadership requires unparalleled levels of discipline, restraint, exertion, tone, content, timing, and delivery. Correctly applying all 7 of those ideas simultaneously is an infinite struggle. It is immediately apparent when one extends too far on any one of those levels, and all are aware. Not all have the ability to perform as a great leader but all have the ability to discern a poor one.

Also part of the dichotomy of leadership is followership. In this class you will only receive 1 out of 12 chances to prepare a plan and lead a team. That means 92% of the available time will be spent as a follower. Take heed. Absolutely do not discount the impact of being a follower on not only team effectiveness but your own ability to lead.

As a testament to the universality of this skill and Max’s format, just 3 days after taking this class I was tasked with solving an issue at work. It required me to work with another department that will provide the labor to implement my idea/plan. Immediately I offered to put together a package to describe what I want, how it should be accomplished, and imagery to convey the idea visually. What just happened was a WARNO, the act of asking for an pre-planning the problem solving, an OPORD, the act and format of presenting my plan, and imagery much akin to a terrain model. At the end I will be supervising the implementation on the area of the company I am responsible for. ROI in less than 1 week?!

Whatever environment you may be living in leadership is vital to your success. There are no prerequisites for this class for good reason. The tactics are only a vehicle to your leadership development. We can (and did) get complete newbies tactically functional within the squad in a short period of time. Leadership on the other hand is a lifelong pursuit.

The Class:
Situation: 1 week class, Sunday to Sunday, learning how to develop an idea into a clear mission brief and ultimately lead a team to execution.

Mission: Convey the idea for your plan clearly with as much detail as possible in order to develop a functional team capable of competently executing your plan.

Enemy: OPFOR will be a 4-6 man unit that is well trained, well armed, and well lead. They get their ammo for free and have roofs over their heads so expect their morale to be high.

Friendly: You are a 12-13 man squad that is well trained (or so you think ;)), well armed, and hopefully well lead (that’s what you’re here to learn). You are glamping (glamour camping) at Velocity Training Center (VTC) with comfortable tents, cots, fires, hot food, and plenty of friends.

Intent: You will be conducting Raids, Ambushes, Advances to Contact, and CQB operations in order to destroy NT14 elements in the area and facilitate friendly operations.

Support: Earth tone clothing, Small arms, body armor, Load Bearing Equipment, 8 rifle mags, IFAKs, 12-24hr small patrol bags.

That sort of step-by-step logical progression of thought and planning is a portion of what you will be learning in this class. This format helps facilitate your performance in rapid decision making, high stress communication, instilling motivation, and clear/concise conveyance of ideas.

You will be provided an outline for how to write a Warning Order (WARNO) and an Operations Order (OPORD) with the culmination being your presentation to the whole squad. Each person gets a chance to come up with their own plan, write a WARNO, write and present an OPORD, and act as Squad Leader for their respective mission. Note: Max has allowed riflemen only attendees if this feels intimidating. Max has made some changes to the class format after our experience. You will most likely be given a demonstration on how to deliver an OPORD prior to your attempt. This will help make it clearer what is expected and some visceral hints as to what works. Max has also taken our AAR points into consideration that even though one person is giving the OPORD it may be beneficial for multiple students to come up with a basic plan in parallel (homework), for extra practice, on their own prerogative. Keep an eye out for Max’s comments on other AAR’s and the class page.

Tempo will be 2 OPORDS and 2 full Squad Attacks per day. Anyone from Combat Team Tactics or Combat Patrol will be familiar with the squad attack format. It was the ending portion of your class where the whole class participated in the single iteration. Support by fire, assault team, flank team, shift fire, assault through, sound familiar? Two of those per day – only difference is they are planned by you. There is time to eat, drink, shave, shower, call the kids, etc. You will be busy but not slaving.

Now even though you have given an amazing brief and you have a fool proof plan prior to stepping off it still needs to be brought to fruition. Needless to say, there’s an endless supply of lessons to be learned in how to apply leadership and ensure your squad executes properly. What you say, how you say it, when you say it, what you do, how you do it, and when you do it are a continiously randomized vortex of targets you are trying to hit. Somebody will say “no plan survives first contact with the enemy” which you will learn is only true if you give up on first contact. No plan survives first contact with the enemy, but it can stay mostly in tact (quote credit Mike Q).

Just because you are a squad leader does not mean you are the only one executing the plan. Attempting to do so is a serious mistake. Whether you like it or not, these are the 12 other people you have to work with. You will need all 12 of those people to believe in your plan and WANT to get it done if you are to succeed. Instilling motivation in someone who has few reasons to follow you and infinite reasons to leave is a priceless skill.

Dichotomy again – Even if you could convince the whole world to follow you, if your idea is too complicated it will never come to fruition. Taking the idea from your head and putting it into many others’ means it needs to be universally understood. A basic calculus problem might seem basic to you but calculus is literally a foreign language to the art student. Tracking?

Of course, we all love the gear. After this class there is no doubt you can consider your kit field tested. To take this class you will be wearing and fighting in what you bring for an entire week. If you have not sorted out your boots, clothes, LBE, and rifle you will find out very quickly something is wrong. Chafing, blisters, broken kit, or broken rifles will seriously immobilize you. Amazingly, this class did not have any significant gear failures, injuries, or frankenrifle issues. Everybody on this class was squared away. UTM equipment/munitions were extremely reliable with only a couple instances of rounds stuck in barrels requiring cleaning rods. For further discussion on gear I have started a new thread on the forum (link: for everyone to discuss what they wear to any and all MVT classes, what worked, what didn’t, and what changes may be made.

My Personal Takeaways:
– 92% rule
– Write, read, and re-read your OPORD. You missed details the first time, every time.
– It is surprisingly easy to survive an ambush.
– Bowline Knot
– Proof that leadership is contagious and it trickles down
– “Pelvic Thrust” is not an acceptable signal for Ambush Set
– The boss is not always right, but he is always the boss.
– CQB is an extra cruel mistress.
– XMRE meals are surprisingly palatable.
– Yeah, I could live like this.

Potential questions/answers:
– There were completely new-to-MVT students here. In 2 days the squad had mentored our maneuvers and nomenclature into adoption. No factor.
– Camping is not mandatory, although highly encouraged. Keyword here is immersion. Almost this entire class luxury camped the entire week with proper tents, cots, stoves, showers, etc. The social aspect of this class is not to be discounted. The comradery was great as well as learning how to talk to eachother. Knowing which words to use and how to use them with each individual student makes leading much more effective by the end of the week.
– There were no ruck marches or planned squad overnight patrols at all on this class. There was only a single small volunteer night recon patrol and they were back by midnight. Essentially identical to those who have done the Close Target Recce from Combat Patrol with rifles, LBE, and patrol packs.
– Food: You will only need 2 full meals per day with snacks. Double up Gatorade purchases. I personally brought XMREs, Mountain House, and some home-made meal kits. It was nice to have options but I brought way more than necessary. Undoubtedly you will eat out or somebody brings food, and you are free to leave for grocery runs, so don’t go crazy on the meal prep.
– PT: Be aware that you will be wearing your full kit and walking to your objective to fight twice per day. There is always a spectrum of fitness levels, as is to be expected, but make sure you are not the one holding your team back. Your cognitive ability drops as your exertion levels go up.
– Weather: We saw temperatures from 28°F-78°F, up to 40mph winds, hail, rain, snow, thunder, and lightning. Be prepared to fight in all conditions.
– Ammo expenditure: I personally used about 1250 rounds. The spread of the class was total 850-1250 rounds consumed per person. My personal recommendation would be to bring some extra cash with you in case you need more ammo. Don’t let it be the limiting factor in your experience.
– PPE: By the end of the week almost everyone was wearing some form of face cover (gaiter, balaclava), goggles, and head covering (boonie, helment) for patrol operations. CQB stuff we broke out the mesh masks for sure. The gaiter/balaclava and hat is enough for long distance shots and almost eliminates goggle fogging while the mesh mask and helmet keeps contact shots off your head. All of the snake oil solutions on goggles, fans, and infinite genius solutions could not 100% prevent goggle fogging. It will happen, learn to fight through it. Body armor is not required, approx 4 of 12 students wore it consistently.
– The amount of freedom you will have in this class is unparallelled in comparison to Max’s other classes. You will be given enough rope to hang yourself with. Proceed wisely.
– Based on a mix of Max’s feedback and our own this class is not likely to happen more frequently than once per year.

The majority of the students partaking in this class are active on the forum so feel free to ask us any questions you may have.



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