Student Review: Combat Patrol 24-26 May: Baldrick

Max: This is a very interesting student review by Baldrick. I could see the struggle he refers to in this review on his face during the class. We had a few words about it, and he did well, but not before he struggled with mindset. Did I go easy on him? Hell no! Rip that bandaid right off! ;-)

What is also interesting is the night patrol he refers to. It was an eye opener for me in terms of my education as an instructor, training largely civilians without the lead up training to this kind of activity. I had not come across this issue on the previous classes, but it needed a certain combination of individuals to achieve. Fear and panic at night! I came across his patrol, in a panic. It did not apply to all of them, but as Baldrick mentions, he had let it affect him. This has led to some massaging of the training with specific emphasis on potential issues at night. It is also interesting that, as part of the NODF class, we address some of the issues that can arise by faith in simply buying the technology. The panic was led that night by two individuals who had PVS-14’s, but were unable to effectively use them. The shock this gave them, and the lack of their sudden ability to ‘own the night,’ led them to begin to panic. 

Baldrick sends:

I have taken a few months to write this review, and I needed the time to think and internalize things I learned. Note that this is NOT from the most recent patrol class.

I participated in the Feb 1-2 CRCD , and my AAR focused on philosophy of training, i.e. why civilians need small unit military training, how it is the natural progression from square range weapons manipulation training, and how its practice and employment are closely aligned to the framers’ vision of military readiness for the United States.

What I want to focus on in this AAR is mindset from a personal development perspective. I want to specifically discuss the way my thinking changed around 3 aspects to mindset, which are learning, ego, and aggression. Numbers 1 and 2 are related, and closely.

As a professional, I am in outside sales. I am up to my eyeballs in business and the corporate world, which oddly enough I didn’t study in school. I studied music. I just turned 25. I have never been to another class besides CRCD. I usually catch on pretty quick, and consider myself a fast learner. I felt like I picked up things fairly rapidly at the CRCD I attended. I had actually internalized and retaught that info on to a local unit and trained about 12 people in contact drills on two different occasions in the two months since my CRCD. I was back for more at MVT after 2 months or so for the Patrol Class. And man I was excited!

This is the natural progression to CRCD for sure, but at the same time it is definitely on a different level mentally. More focus for longer periods of time is required, under greater physical and mental stress. I kept feeling like I wasn’t on the same wavelength as Max, which is weird for me. Again, I’m in sales, and getting inside people’s heads is what I do all day every day. I usually can relate and align to someone pretty quickly, and not just customers, but other sellers that I am coaching. I had never really gotten feedback in the way that Max was giving it. I didn’t play sports competitively in high school or college, and I was never in any sort of military unit. I hadn’t ever really had much negative feedback. I didn’t really know how to handle bollockings, instead I internalized them and let it bother me. At the time I was furious, later on I realize it was just part of the training. When it came to learning, my issues were magnified because I was a team leader. When you make a mistake as an “individual contributor” as we call them in the corporate world, with no direct reports under you, then it stops with you. You get coached and then improve the behavior and it’s all good. When you are responsible (and at this class it is a limited responsibility, not a huge one) for others, you can easily be doubly insecure about your shortcomings and thinking process. A few examples for me…

I was getting ready to head out on the recce patrol, and didn’t have an item that I should have had that was essential to the exercise, in this case a red lens light for map reading. I was in the process of working out an improvised solution and was questioned on it in front of the group. I didn’t respond well due to insecurity (ego).

I was getting ready to head out on the same recce patrol, and hadn’t applied camo paint to my face due to my mental discombobulation after my route to the target had been nixed by Max. Again, embarrassed in front of my team. I was pretty nervous at this point, but my issues were just starting to show. The reason I’m relating these instances is because none of this would have been an issue but for my incorrect learning mindset. I was, due to ego(insecurity) unable to adjust to and internalize the feedback Max was giving, due to the way he was giving it. Again, this is not on Max, this is on me. Not being used to being bollocked because that’s not how it goes in the corporate world I live in, I couldn’t put my mind in the corner and get to the point of the feedback, instead being personally bothered by the manner it was being given.

My scrambled brain resulted in a further issue halfway through the patrol. We were en route to the objective, and making good progress, when we heard a vehicle approaching as we were preparing for a road crossing. I had my map and survival kit, which I was responsible for as the team leader, out for navigation. This contained flares and whistles, chem lights and the map of course. We had to scramble down the ridge for cover from the approaching vehicle, and by the time we regrouped at the bottom I had lost the kit. Faced with the clock and darkness, my team and I elected to continue on since we were fairly certain we had studied the map enough. We were proved right, but still, if I hadn’t been rattled so much by my own mindset issues, I likely would not have lost the map, and the worse decision I made later on that night wouldn’t have happened.

The next major issue I had was with aggression. There were many in the group who became very uncomfortable towards the end of the reconnaissance patrol. If you go back on the blog to the week or two after this you will see a lot of posts by Max on aggression, ego, and night navigation without NODs. Probably because of my class  :-)  We had some major issues towards the end of the recce patrol. Major major issues. This was due to the lack of aggression. Again, this is a corporate world thing, where one is constantly concerned with not offending, with not making waves, and on attainable goals. The aggression that would have easily gotten us through that night navigation, meaning “we will complete this simple exercise that seems challenging, or die trying, because that is what we are going to do”, just wasn’t there. I personally was again struggling with insecurity at my personal issues which translated to leadership issues. Instead of calming my team and pulling them together to complete the objective, I went along with the defeatism.

The aggression thing manifested itself in another exercise on Sunday morning when I was unsure of myself. In retrospect it was obvious what to do, but at the time, after 2 days of taking things personally, then getting an hour of sleep because I couldn’t get past myself, my decision making process was going to crap. See how this is all related?

Why am I posting all of this? Because I want to help the community learn and be better than I was. If you are paying hundreds of dollars, shooting hundreds of rounds, and driving hundreds of miles like I did, get the most out of your experience. I got a ton out of my experience, but the best lessons came later, after a few weeks and I had finally figured myself out. The corporate America mindset doesn’t cut it for small unit tactics. It is very very different. You need to be able to leave whatever you bring with you in the parking lot, be it civilian mindset, ego, or a “may can do” attitude. This isn’t your company, or school, or family. This is different. I’m not speaking to veterans here, but to civilians who are seeking this training. When you get bollocked, don’t freak out! Hear the feedback, nod your head, say “OK” and shake it off, then make the bollocking work for you and shoot faster, run harder, and think better than you did before, and take out any frustration with yourself on Ivan, and get it out of your system before it makes you screw up again. At the time I didn’t even realize I was stuck in the civilian mindset. I’m not sure if Max realized it or not either. Don’t be me. I could have gotten lots more out of the class if I had my mindset sorted before I got there. You aren’t going to demonstrate your abilities, you are going to get ones you don’t have. When you complete an exercise, don’t do it to prove to yourself and others that you know how, do it so that your weaknesses will be seen and corrected. Don’t pay money and waste ammo to practice things you already know. Pay money and use ammo to learn things you don’t. Practice is free. Knowledge transfer is priceless.

After the class, I have carefully stoked my internal fire of aggression. I channel it at work into negotiation on big deals. I channel it into PT. Next time I won’t be hesitating. I will flip the internal switch and go.

One last note: I wasn’t self-aware enough at the time to fix this issue during the class. Meaning, while I was lying awake trying to sleep in the patrol base, I should have been able to square this stuff away and get my head in the game. My inability to self-diagnose and correct was due to guess what? Mindset.

My conclusion about myself? Not nearly as ready as I thought mentally. Because if you can’t handle a bollocking and course correct yourself, how can you handle people going down from incoming fire and course correct? Answer? You can’t.

A few other notes to help everyone thinking of attending the class.

1.       Go with Max’s gear list. Just bring everything on there. Don’t be a muppet like me.

2.       Practice doing anything with your gear in total darkness. Packing and unpacking, deploying your sleep system, loading weapons, eating and drinking, etc. This info is all on the blog, just do your homework.

3.       PT – I hung in there. Others in the class did not. I had utilized the GORUCK 6 week plan in part before I attended. It made all the difference. GWNS on the forum has done some work with this in the last month or so. It’s good stuff and really helps with legs and endurance. During the surprise, there was a simulated casualty that had to be carried. By the time we got him to the rally point, most of his team had been forced to switch out with other teams on stretcher duty because they couldn’t hack it. Most people book this class months in advance. There is no reason to not be ready physically. If you think you are, then go ruck some more and do more pushups and run faster. And squats and walking lunges. Lots of squats and walking lunges.

4.       Gear – Max has covered this some. I used a light assault pack, a 5.11 TRIAB 18 for the class. It was a little tight but I made it. For an overnight patrol I would go bigger. I had an Alice pack, but it wasn’t compatible with my plate carrier with bladder on the back. So light pack it was. I have since upgraded to a mid-size Arcteryx pack with better organization that covers the overnight patrol and assault roles. If I was going on a 3 day patrol, ditch the PC and go ALICE all the way. If you don’t have a plate carrier or bladder on your back, the ALICE is really as good as it gets.

5.       Gear again – if you can’t carry your loadout, you have two options. Ditch some crap, or do more PT. There were students here who wanted it both ways, one guy who wanted to wear armor and couldn’t, and a few others whose rucks were way overloaded. Injuries and dehydration were the result. If you have a long term injury, then adjust your equipment because it will catch up with you.

6.       Clothing – I know opinions are divided on kneepads, but I wish I would have had them. Yes I made it, but on the actually patrolling portions when we did a halt and I kneeled, it really hurt sometimes. Then Max looks at you while you keep adjusting and making noise to stop the stabbing pain in your knee from the rock you’re on. For the actual contact portions I didn’t need them. Didn’t need them at CRCD either. Only time I wanted them was kneeling for extended periods of time with the ruck on during listening halts. Temperature has quite the fluctuation in this area, our was about 40 degrees in 24 hours. Pack accordingly. Have I bought kneepads yet? Nope. I want Crye pants because I hate the strap around ones.

7.       Weapons – I ran a SCAR 16. The gun was fabulous. My battle buddy wasn’t thrilled with the PWS compensator and the dust in his face, but whatever. If I was building an AR for SUT, I would put a flash hider on the end and skip the exotic muzzle devices. Flash signature reduction > muzzle control. I never needed my pistol. When you are in a team you rarely do. I will say that I had to pull my pistol once during CRCD (over-inserted a magazine and couldn’t get it free). I had a 1911. In a contact drill with a 30 yard target, 7 rounds is just not much fun. I shoot 1911s well which is why I had one on my belt, but I am moving to a 9mm with more ammo.