Close Quarter Battle Course

After a sixteen hour drive from Florida, camping in the rain, five hours of sleep, and never having taken a tactical class before, I nevertheless found the MVT CQB class eminently doable. Not because it was watered down and easy, but because the course was so effectively designed and taught by John and his assistants Kang and Phil. I was impressed by their focused, dedicated, pragmatic, and no-ego approaches. They were professional but friendly and gave constructive feedback where needed.There was zero superfluous Hollywood tacticool ninja stuff. Everything taught was tuned for maximum efficiency and impact, honed by years of experience. Everything served a purpose, building upon itself hour upon hour, day upon day. Given the time constraint of three full days, I think John did an excellent job of pacing the material and breaking it down.
To illustrate, during the first morning, practicing hammer and controlled pairs, target discrimination, and shooting while moving were essential for the second and third days whereby one does not simply walk into a room and stand still at the first sight of a threat and start engaging; that would mean blocking your team-mates from entering, losing momentum, and then everyone dies. We learned how to move to one’s designated “point of domination” in the room, cover your designated sector of fire, discriminate your targets, and fire in hammer pairs while moving. All while being mindful of your footwork, communicating what you see, picking up another buddy’s role when they go down, and slowing down enough to allow for correct timing and spacing between team members.

When Force on Force training began on day three, I found out just how valid the CQB principles of speed, surprise, and violence of action were. Many times I got shot because I didn’t expect it, fell for a distraction tactic (thanks Jack!), didn’t react in time, or failed to maintain momentum. The rest of the time it was because I wasn’t mindful of overlapping fatal funnels from multiple doorways or windows, staying out of one but ignoring another and getting hit from that direction. And of course, the first man to enter a room to an expectant threat hiding in the corner will go down more often than not, and it is through self-sacrifice that he can shield his teammates so that they can press on and finish the job. As for the principle of speed, measured swiftness would be more accurate, as in efficiency of movement, coordination of timing, and smoothness of flow.

Despite the high casualty rate, there were certain students and teams that consistently came out on top; several had prior security, military, or law enforcement experience and it showed. This class was less of a learning curve for them. To me, they were proof that CQB is not some crap shoot meat grinder where it’s a coin flip as to who lives or dies. Rather, if you employ sound principles, think ahead, think on your feet, think outside the box, know your roles and objectives, expect the unexpected, and employ tactical patience and timing, you will have the upper hand. Teamwork and communication is the glue of it all. This is something that comes with practice.

Regarding UTM rounds, the blue ones we used were a bit overkill for closer quarters and lower velocity rounds are planned for the future. We did our best to avoid head shots and anything under 1 meter distance, but with 16″ barrels and close confines there were occasional exceptions. Take the advice and wear a field jacket as an outer layer. I wore a grid fleece sweater and some rounds went through. Combat shirts with the thin torso material, likewise. Cardboard in an abdominal flap apparently works as expedient armor; I stuffed a baseball cap down my pants and that worked great. I also wore a 556 Patrol chest rig (so awesome) but had I worn a plate carrier I’d have survived 10 shots out of ~35 total. I got shot in the sides twice, so side plates would have prevented those. Another 7 shots were in hands and arms, 3 in the face, none on my helmet or backside, and the remaining dozen were in abdominal/waist/groin/thigh region.

It’s worth noting that, according to the opinion of several MVT alumni there, this class is comparable to CTT in terms of overall effort required, only that it’s more mentally intensive than physically so, while CTT is the opposite. So if you’ve taken CTT, you can do the CQBC. In fact, on the last day with 7 BLUEFOR against 4 OPFOR, we employed some CTT tactics in approaching and attacking the megahouse from the woodline. I hadn’t officially taken CTT yet but Jeff and JohnnyMac waved me through it. Once you stack up on a building and enter, though, it’s CQB time and CTT is no substitute. That’s why this class is a “must have”, because it fills in a gap in the MVT curriculum.

John took time for class feedback at the end of the third day and was humbly open to constructive criticism. This being the 2nd CQBC event taught at VTC, it was already an improvement based on feedback from the first class. So I can only imagine how even more effective future classes will be. In hindsight, here are a couple more more suggestions. First, maybe include a word on the best ways to defend a structure. Sure, one can deduce some of that from CQB principles and the experience of playing OPFOR in the huts, but it would be good to get an “official” word on best practices if there are any. Second, include a commentary on the use of weapon lights. John did address this when asked on the side, but I’m not sure everyone was there to hear it. And third, if there are any other tricks or unconventional tactics one can do in CQBC that fall under the category of “thinking outside the box.”

John said that this course is could easily be six weeks long; all that material has been condensed into three days, meaning everything is shown but there’s only just enough repetition on each move/drill/principle to start implementing them in FoF. One could definitely benefit from practicing them at home and taking the class again, multiple times. Thankfully, John provided us a written outline afterward, which helped clear up any major points I missed or misunderstood. I asked Kang and Phil how much of their total CQB knowledge was included in this course; they said a good deal, about 70%, with the remainder being some extra nuances, moving around furniture, advanced breaching (we did unlocked door breaching and a live shotgun breach), hand-to-hand combat, etc. If there’s an Advanced CQBC, I will definitely sign up.