Review & Perspective: HEAT 1 August 6 -11: Rich

The first thing we were told when the course started was that it would build rifle skills from the ground up. The second thing we were told was that it was an “accelerated small unit tactics course”. Both of these were accurate, and you can envisage all sorts of nonsense with these descriptions, so let me clear things up with what is actually meant by “ground up” and “accelerated” – we started with 11 students, several of whom never touched an AR before, and even added a 12th on day 2, again not having notable recent experience with a modern AR, and ended up with a solid baseline of combat arms skills, mostly indistinguishable from one another by day 4, all capable of working in a small team and giving a would-be opposition force a run for their money. “Oh, that’s nonsense! Only someone who spent $1000+ on their rifle and shoots thousands of rounds through it every weekend at the range could do that!” Wrong. I was there. I saw it all…

The first two days were on the square flat range getting some top notch guidance on AR handling skills, including zero for multiple optics platforms, combat and tactical reloads, malfunction drills tackling 99% of what a typical AR user would encounter (I know this from my own military experience), and a great deal of time spent on making the AR a part of your body, moving it like an appendage and using it as if you were born with it. It’s not as ridiculous as it sounds; after day 2 of the “ground up” range skills I felt extremely comfortable with my rifle and felt safe as houses with the 11 other students… yes, safety was stressed more than any other topic. We were even asked at the end of the course if anyone felt unsafe at any time during the 4-day instruction. No one did. Max and Scott were hawks on safe weapons handling, and we were all the better for it.

Day 2 on the range involved some flavors of movement to contact and fire-and-maneuver skills. For some, this was their first time ever shooting, moving, and communicating (all 3 at once). MVT’s policy for training is basically crawl-walk-run, and this applied in dry-run demonstrations, live-fire runs by the instructors, and then student runs. Each run was critiqued as precisely as possible so the next students could learn fro the last team’s good and bad practices. Once, again, we were all better for it. The biggest takeaway was that it takes many, many hours of practice to get shoot-move-communicate right, and make it natural. I don’t know how other private training facilities do it, but MVT gave us enough to build a foundation which stuck through to days 3 and 4 on the tactical ranges (read: rocky trails in the hills where every direction you go is uphill and the enemy is behind every bit of micro-terrain). Yes, this gets very fun…

To summarize the last 2 days of the 4-day course, all your skills from the square ranges are applied in pretty realistic patrol scenarios. I mentioned it’s an accelerated tactics course. You learn the drills which form the basic components of most small unit tactics – drills make up tactics, and these drills can be applied to tactics in nearly any environment. Max and Scott gave just enough away that you knew you were going to fire your weapon, but not where, when, and for how long. The drills we did were at times terrifying, especially when dust and dirt obscured your targets, but also extremely gratifying when you got your hits, moved as a team, and won the fight. Yeah, there were no shots fired back at you (I suggest MVT’s Force on Force events for that – using Airsim of course), but the live fire dimension, along with the throat-killing screams to move up, get cover, and assault drew you in more than enough to make it real. This is not the movies or video games; you are taking your first steps to being a gunfighter, and nowhere else outside the military can I say the same.

Final argument – I started with 11 strangers and finished with 11 teammates. Don’t come in with the impression you’ll leave a Ranger; this is an “accelerated” course which teaches you drills. It’s basic, but essential; all special forces worldwide win fights by training and mastering the basics; the building blocks for all tactics. That is what you get here. That, and proof that you and your rifle can stand up to a combat environment.

P.S. – Take the fitness assessment seriously. You’re no good to anyone if you can’t keep up with your team or move fast enough to subdue the enemy. Be fit to fight.”