Combat Leader Course (CLC)

Background: I have attended MVT three times now, to include last year’s CLC and this year’s CLC. I have also attended well over 20 training events with other instructors (mostly manipulation stuff, a smattering of tactics), was a Hospital Corpsman in the Navy, and am currently an infantryman in the Army National Guard.

Discussion: This is my second time at CLC, and right off the bat I would like to say it was better than last year. Being one of the four repeat students, I can say with confidence that I got more value out of this the second time, and that CLC is definitively worth the financial and opportunity costs.

Mechanically, CLC is an eight day class, with each of 13 students getting one appointment as the squad leader, multiple opportunities to be a team leader, and the remainder being as a regular joe. Most days will contain two missions, one in the morning and one in the evening; each mission consists of a mission brief delivered by the Squad Leader, a period of mission-specific rehearsals directed by the Squad Leader, the mission itself, and then an on-the-ground AAR. Missions are any of the traditional small unit missions (raid, ambush, etc), and are run against live enemy (called the “opposing forces, AKA OPFOR). This year all the students except two were MVT grads, and that higher level of individual skill was very beneficial throughout the class, as it allowed leaders to have a degree of trust that their subordinates would know what to do. Also, we had a great group of guys (and a gal) this year, who managed to get along very well, with only a few personality clashes.

A quick word on our training weapons: last year’s CLC was run with UTM, and this year was planned to be UTM as well. However, shortly before the class started UTM had some rather significant QC issues, and Max made the decision to switch airsim rifles. I won’t lie, I was originally pretty skeptical, and came to the class curious and mildly apprehensive about the new rifles. After a full week with the new airsim stuff I can definitively say that it is better in the woods. It’s probably a wash with UTM inside structures, but overall, airsim takes the cake because it is just massively cheaper and more accessible. So please don’t boo-hoo the class out of some misplaced machismo directed at the training tools.

Fundamentally, CLC is akin to a miniature Ranger School. It teaches, and selects for, leadership through the vehicle of small unit tactics. It trains one’s grasp of the fundamental principles of war and one’s “grip” of a chaotic situation. It develops and conditions the ability to follow orders, which is crucial for any leader. What you get out of CLC is entirely unavailable at any other civilian trainer I know of, anywhere in the United States. If you are the type of person who will read this review, then you should probably attend the class.

Another key differentiating factor between many training venues and CLC (MVT generally, but CLC specifically) is that chaos is the real teacher at CLC. To wit: you can lead people pretty easily in a predictable situation (even if it is highly dangerous) but leading and controlling people in highly dangerous and unpredictable situations is a whole ‘nother can of worms. Then add to that problem the fact that you have to lead through people (in the case of CLC, a squad leader using his team leaders, who themselves are using their team) and you can see the unique value you get. Learning how to grip your people and operate in the chaos is the key to success.

I certainly got my money’s worth out of the class. I developed myself in ways that aren’t available anywhere outside of the military (ask me how I know) through gritty, realistic training; I learned more about tactics in a week than a year of reading books would do; I became a better follower, which is just as important as being a good leader (one presupposes the other), and I did it all in the company of some amazing people. Oh yeah, did I mention we all looked cool while we were at it?

Summary: If you are serious about learning how to fight, not just how to shoot (which is only the smallest part of fighting) you really need to attend MVT (because no one else teaches small unit tactics to civilians in the same way that MVT does). If you further think that you may fight with other people, you need to bring them to MVT as well, and then at least some of you need to attend CLC. The Army doesn’t send people into combat without organized, repeated practice at SUT, and if you think you’re going to go into combat with your group – without rigorous, valid training – and survive you are either ignorant of the facts or delusional.