Review: Georgia 5 Day Mobile Class October 2017: Preacher

Review of Georgia Combat Team Tactics  & Direct Action 5 Day Mobile Class: Preacher

This won’t be a short review but hopefully a good one.  I’m writing this for folks like me that have to be pretty careful with their time and money and attending a class like this is a real kitchen table decision.  I hope this helps in your decision making.

ABOUT ME – I have a chosen profession that places a lot of demands on my time and attention. The finances are adequate but not overflowing.  It is also an occupation that has put me in danger of interpersonal violence more often than I care to tally up.  Occasionally my wife and children have been in danger too.  These experiences have given us a visceral appreciation for how unpleasant people can be even when the lights are still on, the cops are a call a way, and bellies are full.  These things have led my wife and I to prioritize training and practices that help us avoid and deal with interpersonal violence.

I have had very little formal training with a rifle, but I have been concerned about what our threat situation could look like if the general circumstances of our environment or our country degraded even a little bit.  One of my best friends is ex-Special Forces and teaches me what he can when time permits, but there is a lot you can’t learn regarding small unit tactics when there are only two guys.

Before signing up for Max’s class I did a ton of research.  I know there is an overwhelming number of people in the martial world who are full of $@%#.  Well meaning sometimes, but dangerous all the same, and I take that very seriously.  Keeping the people I care about safe from violence isn’t imaginary or theoretical to me, it’s real and I take that very seriously.  I was not looking for a hobby, a recreational activity, or a feel-good experience.  I was looking for someone to help teach me to get the job done in a bad situation.  Also, my time and financial constraints means that I can’t afford to take different people’s classes and make the call from there, so I did my homework.  I watched people’s videos.  I read people’s blogs and class reviews from multiple sites.  As I began honing in on Max I also read all of his books and passed some of his stuff on to my ex-SF friend to see if he thought he was legit.  The professionalism and clear instruction that I saw in Max’s teaching videos was the icing on the cake.

I made my decision and when a class in my state was posted, it made the decision even easier.  I booked it immediately with four goals in mind:

  1. To not hurt anyone else or get myself hurt or killed
  2. To learn to be a better teacher and leader of the people I care about in a bad situation.
  3. To learn at least ten things I was doing wrong or didn’t know
  4. To hopefully spend some time with some people who didn’t think my concerns about the world and my willingness to do something about them was crazy and taboo.

THE LOCATION – The location was amazing.  All of the directions and instructions were crystal clear. The drive in and out every day was beautiful.  Our host’s whole family had worked hard for weeks to get the place ready for us and didn’t ask for a thing from anyone for all of their effort.  They also got up early every morning to make sure everyone found their way okay and stayed late every evening to get things reset for the next day.  Our host also played the First Sergeant role most of the week, offering the insight from a second pair of eyes and individual instruction when needed.  I can’t say it any more plainly than that our location and hosts were incredible.

Max Notes: The  training location was provided / hosted by Robert of JRH Enterprises. My go-to guy for night vision and body armor needs.

THE PEOPLE – I didn’t realize how cautious I was of the people who were taking this course until I got there.  Socially, the only frame of reference I had for anything like this was going to a gun show twice in my life (once as a child and once as an adult) and internet posters.  These limited experiences would give anyone concerns that they might have signed up to spend five days with a bunch of reckless, swaggering, slack-jawed Cletuses – with guns. This was an unconscious concern, but I found myself hanging back on the first day at the rifle range trying to keep an eye on everyone to see what they were like – and if they were safe to be around with a rifle.

My concerns couldn’t have been more unfounded.  The quality of people that attended this class is impressive.  By trade they are engineers, medical professionals, active and former military, former alphabet agency employees and government contractors.  They had worked hard to be there.  Several of them had lost a ton of weight in preparation for the class.  Many of them had taken multiple classes with Max already.  They are overwhelmingly analytical thinkers whose assessment of the world has left them concerned about the future and aren’t put off by the hard work and sacrifice required to do something about those concerns.

They were careful with their rifles, free with their encouragement, helpful with their advice, and a ton of fun to be around.

If these people are the type of crazies I fit in with, I’ll consider myself in good company.

THE INSTRUCTOR – I had already put a ton of effort into vetting Max as a subject matter expert and competent instructor before I came, so I’ll start by briefly giving you the highlights on this.

Max is a career soldier who had around a decade of real world combat leadership experience before our American forces and their allies got into the Global War on Terror.  Through his own expertise and on his own dime he set up a world class training facility in West Virginia where civilians get to come and train in the same space and under the same instructors that are sought out by our active duty Special Operations Forces units.

You can read more about his background elsewhere, but those two things alone should make the comparison part of any evaluation pretty simple and clear.

Not everyone who is an expert in a particular field is also a good teacher.  Max is both.

From the very first packet of instructions you receive after registration, his communications are clear and well organized.  His teachings in the field are thorough, in depth, and easy to understand.  It is clear that he has put a lot of work into his teaching plan and that it is something he continually works to improve.  His plan of instruction and the pace of the class balances really well the reality of the “drinking from a fire hose” experience that  inherently comes with trying to squeeze the lofty course objectives into a five-day class without overwhelming the students.

I particularly love that he knows all the stupid things his students are going to do before they do them and works this into his instruction.  This is the kind of insight that can only be gained through tons of experience as an instructor.  His insights on this are particularly helpful in making sure the training is conducted in a safe manner.  While doing something inherently dangerous for five days with a group of people I’d never met, I never felt like I was in danger.

I don’t think you can understand Max’s demeanor if you don’t understand the difference between “niceness” and “kindness.”  When a friend of mine had the job of being a gunner on top of a Humvee in Iraq, he was supposed to shoot anyone that got too close to the vehicle (man, woman, or child) because they might be placing an IED on or under the vehicle and kill everyone.  So my friend kept a case of empty 50 caliber casings next to him and threw them at people and cussed at them if they weren’t paying attention or in danger of getting too close.  He wasn’t being nice at all, but he was trying to save their lives.  He was being kind.  Nice would have been smiling and waving at the people as they stepped into the kill zone.  The distinction is critical.

Max isn’t always nice, but he is kind, and that is exactly how you want it to be.  In fact, if after an exercise, Max told our team that we performed like majestic death machines, I would have immediately packed up my stuff and left, thoroughly convinced that Max is a complete jerk that doesn’t care a thing about the people he’s teaching.  I know I’m not good at this and don’t know what I’m doing – it’s why I took the class.  In fact, I already had it in my mind that if I didn’t walk away from this class with at least ten things I was doing wrong or would do wrong, it wasn’t worth it.  This set me up to be grateful for Max’s feedback and not feel deflated.  I was getting what I came for – which was way more than ten things.

The motives of a leader matter.  They shape everything the leader touches. As an organizational leader myself, I can tell that after all the time and resources required to pull off this course is tallied up Max isn’t making much if anything off of these courses and could make better money doing almost anything else.  Two minutes with Max and you can tell that he also isn’t doing it for the cool-guy ego stroking that so obviously motivates some people.  The only motives this leaves are that he just really believes in what he is doing and that he cares about the people he is teaching.  My guess is that it is some mix of both.

INSTRUCTION – If you know anything about the training progression in the military, then you know that the idea of moving a group of people from basic rifle skills to conducting squad level ambushes and raids in five days is just stupefying, but MVT pulls it off.

Neither the group, nor any individual were proficient subject matter experts at the end but we had successfully moved from “unconscious unskilled” to “conscious unskilled.”  In other words, we could get the job done,  while being vividly aware of how much more time and work we would need to put in to become truly good at this.

Anyone who expects more from a shorter period of time really needs to get some training because they have no idea what all is involved in this.  Professional soldiers, like any other field, put years of constant practice and training in before they are able to perform at a level where things seem to come naturally to them (“unconscious competence”).

The idea that someone can gain proficiency or even competency in this field or any other by reading a few books or watching a few YouTube videos is delusional.  Until you do it, you don’t know what happens to your mind and body and the mind and body of the people around you when you are in an unfamiliar situation, charged with a very important but unfamiliar task, and then twelve rifles start exploding all around you – and you need to get it right and make sure the people around you get it right.  You can’t get that from books and YouTube videos or even time on the square range.

Max successfully leveraged his past teaching and soldiering experiences, great teaching aids (pop up targets, dummies, etc.) and a carefully prepared location to move people through a course of instruction as fast as they could go without falling apart.

CRITIQUE – The only critique I have of the class is that the ammo requirements changed after I had ordered a case for the class.  I ordered a case of XM193 the same day I registered for the class. I think I got the notice from Max a day or two later (this notice was about six months before the class started).  I’m not sure how this could be realistically avoided, but just verify ammo requirements before you order if having more ammo than money is a concern for you.

RECOMMENDATIONS – If gaining competence in this area is important for you and your resources are limited, I would hyper focus on getting to training.  Buy a quality rifle, ten to twelve magazines, a case of ammo, and a couple gallons of water.  Borrow a chest rig or just use your pockets if you have to, but prioritize training.  You don’t know what you don’t know.  I’d rather stand beside someone fighting in jeans and a t-shirt who had good training than someone who had all the best gear but no, or poor, training.

Getting someone to help you work on your weapons handling beforehand would be really helpful.  There is a lot of moving parts when fighting as a team and being able to operate your weapon without thinking about it clears up some much needed head space.

Also, get in the best shape that you can.  There was a range of physical fitness levels within the class, but this is a very physical activity and the better shape you’re in, the less distracting your body is going to be to you as you work on performing various tasks.

I’m incredibly grateful for these five days, the training I received, and the people I got a chance to know.  I hope this is helpful to someone out there.

– Preacher