Texas 2019 Class
Below is my review of the Texas 2019 MVT class. I will give an overview of the content of the class, and then go into more detail regarding the things that I took from it.
LIVE FIRE TRAINING
Day 1 was spent on the square range, going over fundamental movements. We covered the RTR drill, bounding, and peeling as buddy pairs and teams, as well as the assault through. This was to bring the new people up to speed, and give the alumni a refresher.
Day 2 was Attack Day. The first drill was the River Attack, which gave us the chance to practice bounding forward and then assaulting two enemy positions. This was a four man team drill, with each team running through it twice. After lunch, we ran the Rhodesian pursuit drill from 2018. We used a different patrol formation to practice movement to contact, followed by fire and movement onto the enemy position. After the first contact, we continued movement to reach and assault a second enemy position in a similar manner. We ran this exercise as five man teams, with two buddy pairs and a stick leader; each team ran through twice.
After training in the field all day, we had an evening medical class taught by Max and William. We went over the MARCH protocol, and then got to practice tourniquet application, wound packing, and needle decompression. A beautiful slab of pork ribs and a beef roast were sacrificed for the cause as the tissue models.
Day 3 was Break Contact Day. The first drill was a team movement to contact, followed by bounding to the rear, peeling into cover behind a terrain feature, setting and springing a hasty ambush for the pursuing enemy, and then once again bounding to the rear to break contact.
The second drill of the day was a contact to the flank, followed by a peeling maneuver out of the kill zone. Each team ran this twice, once as a contact right and once as a contact left.
After this, we moved to a wooded area, and practiced a Rhodesian style cover shoot. Upon taking fire from an unseen enemy, the team fired into positions of likely enemy cover, and then fought through the enemy position, slotting floppies all the way. Rather than assaulting through on line as we had done before, each buddy pair bounded forward independently of the other pair, with the stick leader in the middle to keep them roughly on line. This maneuver took SEVERAL tries to get right, and everybody got a taste of the famous MVT Yelling.
Day 4 was Ambush Day. This was the first time we ran exercises as a full squad of 14 (three four man teams, squad leader, radio operator). We also ran the exercises as a full mission, including patrolling in to the objective rally point, leader’s reconnaissance, setting up of a linear ambush with stop groups on the flanks, springing the ambush, assaulting through the kill zone, collapsing the ambush, and withdrawing from the ambush site. We ran two ambushes along a road in the morning and two in the afternoon along a dry creek bed.
The morning ambushes were run as simple drills, without any complications. The afternoon ambushes included elements of free play. On the first ambush, a (simulated) enemy Quick Reaction Force counterattacked as we were collapsing the ambush, resulting in two casualties. We had to fight off the QRF long enough to perform care under fire, and then break contact while extracting the casualties. We got a chance to perform the medical skills learned a few days before, as well as the tactical skills.
I was the squad leader for the second and final ambush exercise of the day. Before we began, I spent some time organizing the squad and making sure everyone understood what to do in the event of an attack by the enemy QRF or casualties. I placed my most experienced guys in the stop groups, and made sure they knew to bound back to the ORP if attacked. I put a medic with a litter in both assault teams, and made sure they knew to stage casualties at the ORP before extracting them to the pickup point. When the scenario began, we took our first casualty during the assault through the kill zone. My radioman immediately called for our (notional) QRF, which ended up saving us a lot of time down the road. Part of the assault team tourniqueted the casualty and dragged him out of the kill zone, and the medic began to perform care under fire. After finishing the assault through, we were collapsing the ambush when we were contacted by the enemy QRF, and sustained a second casualty. It was here that the benefits of having a well-trained squad really showed. The stop groups bounded back and engaged the QRF, while the medics moved the casualties back to the ORP, stabilized them, and organized their extraction. There was very little for me to do as squad leader, because everyone else did their jobs. We extracted the casualties from the ambush site to our pickup point, and the medical team continued to perform the MARCH protocol on them while the remainder of the squad pulled security.
Day 5 was Hasty Attack/Raid Day. We began at the familiar quarry range, with a two team hasty attack. With the two teams moving independently in a nominal satellite patrol type formation, the first came under fire from a position about 200 yards away. The team in contact RTRed, fought into cover, and then won the firefight with the enemy position. While the first team kept the enemy suppressed, the trailing team took a covered route onto the right flank of the enemy position, moved to contact, advanced by fire and movement, and then assaulted through. Each team got to run through the attack twice, once as the support by fire team and once as the assault team.
In the afternoon, we raided an enemy camp in a creek bottom. This was similar in execution to the hasty attack, except that the support by fire moved into position without being contacted by the enemy, and suppressed the enemy camp. The assault team moved to a flank in an ATV, dismounted, bounded up onto the camp, and then assaulted through. Once again, each team got one run through as the assault element, and one as support by fire.
This was the end of the live fire portion of the class.
FORCE ON FORCE TRAINING
On Day 6, we conducted the AirSim Force on Force part of the class. The location was the same strip of woods along the riverbank where we conducted the Rhodesian cover shoot on day 3. In the morning, we ran four Capture The Tea scenarios with a six man team versus a seven man team. Each team had a tree with a radio tied to it as a base and a strategic stockpile of tea, separated by about 200 yards. The first team to capture the tea won.
On the first evolution, both teams left a two man team to guard the base, and sent the remainder of the team to attack the enemy base. The two attacking elements had a meeting engagement in an area of heavy cover, and the red team prevailed. The red team then closed in on the yellow base, killed the remainder of the opposing force and captured the tea.
On the second evolution, red team’s plan was to have three buddy pairs moving independently toward the enemy base. When one pair came in contact, the remaining pair or pairs were to try and move forward through the gaps and flank the enemy. In practice, the formation wound up functioning as a long skirmish line, with each pair moving independently but staying roughly on line. Good fire and movement in the woods allowed red to kill the enemy force, push through the holes in the enemy formation, and capture the tea.
This worked so well that red used the same plan for the third evolution, and it worked nearly as well again. I managed to get myself killed by popping out of the same side of the tree I was hiding behind after a reload.
On the fourth evolution, the red team came up with a more complicated plan. Leaving a buddy pair near their base, a team of four pushed quickly up through dense brush on the riverbank, and deployed on a line, catching the other team’s skirmish line in the flank. This forced the yellow team to redeploy to face the new threat, and allowed red team’s remaining buddy pair to roll them up from the flank. This was another time when the importance of having a well-trained squad showed. The whole squad knew the plan before we began, and when I was killed in the first exchange of fire, my team leaders executed it perfectly without me and won the fight.
After lunch, we reorganized from two equal teams into a ten man squad versus a three man OPFOR. The OPFOR constructed three bunkers around one of the bases, and the squad performed a basic flanking attack.
On the first run, a three man support by fire team moved into a depression in front of the bunkers, while the remaining two teams used the concealment along the river to move to the right flank. One three man team began to assault from a low spot on the flank, with one team remaining as a reserve. When it became clear that enemy bunkers had too much depth for one team to cover, the second team deployed to the right of the first assault team. During the ensuing firefight, all of the OPFOR were killed before the actual assault through.
This exercise was where I bumped up against my limits as a squad leader. I made my two most experienced team leaders the support by fire and assault team commanders. I told myself beforehand that I was not going to micromanage them. When they made contact, and it became clear that the assault team did not have enough coverage to take out the depth bunker, I deployed my reserve team at approximately the right place and time to engage it. However, the reserve team leader did not push the fight as hard as I wanted him to, and the assault and support by fire teams wound up winning the whole fight, while I basically did nothing but watch. Luckily the OPFOR were all killed early on, and there was no need for an assault on the bunkers. I should have gotten in and pushed the reserve team harder when I saw that they weren’t doing it themselves, but didn’t because we were winning. If an assault through had been necessary, we might well have lost a lot of people because I didn’t push them hard enough.
The second squad attack went much like the first, only easier because the attackers now knew the positions of the bunkers. The support by fire team was able to keep the front two bunkers largely suppressed, until one OPFOR was killed by the assault team and one by the assault team. Both elements pushed up onto the final bunker, until the last surviving OPFOR tried to pop smoke and escape, but went down under a hail of plastic BBs. The victorious freedom fighters captured the tea for the last time, and then threw it triumphantly into the river while 1000 electric guitars played “The Star Spangled Banner,” a bald eagle swooped overhead and the ghosts of George Washington, Davy Crockett, Ian Smith, Jed Eckert, and Johnny Cash appeared and gave us a double thumbs up.
The Force on Force day was my favorite day, as it always is. All the techniques we learned worked exactly as they did during the drills, which was a YUUUGE confidence builder. The Force on Force validates the rest of the class, and if you are not doing it you are missing out on a vital part or your training.
I have heard it said that there are no advanced techniques, only brilliance in the basics; and the MVT Texas class for 2019 is a perfect example of this. I had done every drill or exercise before, and yet I still managed to take something new from each one. While moving, I was doing a better job of looking for and taking positions of cover, rather than just moving by rote. I was able to pay better attention to the movements and positions of other team members, because I was no longer devoting my full attention to my own. As a class, we did a better job of winning the firefight before moving, rather than rolling into drills immediately. During free play exercises and Force on Force, I was able to think about how to respond to a changing tactical situation, and control the movements of other team members.
As previously stated, the drills we ran were the same at the bottom, but with added layers of complexity to reflect the growing skills of a class that had a high number of alumni. Throughout the class, we usually ran drills as a five man team instead of four, adding in the position of team leader so that the class had more of an emphasis on leadership training. We sustained more casualties during the free play exercises, and performed much better and more complex medical care upon them. We incorporated a vehicle into the raid scenario.
The leadership element really became obvious during the Force on Force day. Last year, during the fighting for the House of Woe, leadership was at best ad hoc, and usually absent. This year, it was THE key element in victory every time.
It was also great to see the spectrum of learning in the members of the class. We had a broad range of training in the class, from guys taking their first tactical class to five year repeat alumni. You could really see the progression of training. New guys were learning and perfecting basic techniques. Others were leading buddy pairs. Advanced guys were stepping into specialist roles, and leading teams or the squad.
In conclusion, I will just say that the MVT Texas classes continue to get better every year. More experienced students, iterative improvements in complexity and realism, and a heavier emphasis on Force on Force, combined with the improved usability of the AirSim equipment mean that we are learning more and faster as the years go by. I look forward to the class all year long. I can’t wait for 2020!