Student Review: Combat Patrol November 2015: Trailman

CP Nov 2015
Combat Patrol review 20 November 2015 Trailman

In the past year and a half I’ve taken MVT’s Combat Rifle Course with my wife, individually I’ve attended Combat Team Tactics (CTT) this past January and now Combat Patrol (CP) this past November. I’ll pass on a detailed course outline as that can be found here:

A general overview of the weekend, this is a bit condensed because I don’t want to give away too much of the course of instruction. Some of the evolutions are designed as stressors and I don’t want to take the benefit out of it for the next guy or gal.

The Combat Patrol Class is the follow on to the MVT Combat Team Tactics (CTT) course which teaches contact and break contact drills from individual to small team size groups. In Combat Patrol you take that knowledge and to it add patrol and reconnaissance operations which lead to ambush and raid evolutions and execute them in real world conditions.

Class concentrated on patrol theory, conduct and actions, lecture and field implementation of lessons. Day one we organized and conducted an initial patrol into an enemy contact situation and executed our past learning in the break contact drills.  It was a pretty damn bad cluster you know what. A good part of it was being rusty and out of practice from CTT drills and a good part I think of having an ad hoc team doing a drill for the first time with several communications breakdowns. Most of this started to come together amazingly quick after the first initial drills over the course of the weekend. I’ll caveat this all (and all weekend) that safety is paramount as this is all live fire drills. Max and the training staff are on you at all times as safety observers.

The next day we conducted several patrol actions, linear danger crossings, hasty ambush and finally setting up a patrol base for the night. Once the base was set and security cleared we ate chow and met at the school house for a night reconnaissance mission briefing.

We conducted a night reconnaissance patrol with two squads on two targets that night at about 18:30; one on the mountain and one in the valley. Our squad had the valley recon, we observed the target, made our notes and made our way back to camp by about 22:00 for a patrol debrief and an AAR by the staff that were manning the sites we reconnoitered.  Once complete we hiked back to the patrol base and encamped for the night and with sentries posted

The next morning we were up, packed and prepared for action before sunrise. During the morning event we sustained a casualty (simulated) which required us to evac “and” fight at the same time. Class reconvened at the schoolhouse for a last set of instructions and pre-brief/run through for a set piece ambush in the morning and a raid in the afternoon. Class ended with staff reviews and student AARs on the course.

My lessons learned and observations:

What I was there for?

Take my learning to a new level; the idea is you start to put the drills together here in a realistic operational environment. I also wanted to prove to myself that I could take it up a notch in effort and skills in defense of my home and family. After the first courses at MVT the requirements become harder, mentally and physically. I wanted to see if I had what it takes.

Test my equipment out:

I went to class with a standard configuration mid-length AR, Aimpoint Pro, M193 ammunition, battle belt with harness carrying 8 aluminum mags, IFAK, canteen, knife, small sustainment pouch and a camelback. For the patrol into the patrol base I also carried a 45L Karrimor ruck with a poncho/shelter, MSS system with the gortex bivy and intermediate bag, a klymit static V recon pad and small set of cook gear and food plus additional water in a Nalgene.

My belt config worked out fairly well, no real hang ups for this class. I had reconfigured it to keep pouches away from my front for easier prone shooting but that’s about it. I ran my original Condor belt that I had for the last two classes and the only real issue was that since there is no stiffener inside the belt it is starting to roll down from the top from the weight of the pouches. We had planned to upgrade these to a better quality rigid belt and that effort is on now. We are also dropping one right hand two-mag pouch to bring the combat load down to six on the belt. Additional spare mags will be carried in a smaller assault pack. Fight light and more maneuverable.

The ruck was problematic, I had it fairly well packed with the sleep system taking up most of the room but it still came in heavy for me. Even when backpacking I have never used or had to deal with a double harness setup like this. The load bearing straps on my harness had my tourniquet attached and it interfered with properly placing the ruck. The weight and the height took some getting used to since you get very top heavy. It’s going to take more practice and work with it to find that right spot plus additional physical conditioning to carry the load.

The sleep system worked only so so. Temps were in the low 30’s Saturday night. I may have slept but I don’t remember. Every time the wind picked up it got down in my bag and woke me up. I’m used to a full backpacking tent with the full wind protection it affords and had problems keeping the bag sealed up. Sleeping on an incline didn’t help either but you get what you have,

Overall a class like this will bust your bubble in these areas by making you use all that crap you have and finding out what works. I hunt for food for family and lessons I learned there need to apply here, minimalist is really the way go for light tactical operations, less is more and better. Find the balance that gets you where you need to go.

Heat management:

I think this was the debilitating factor for all the students over the weekend myself included. We had nights in the low 30’s and days in the mid 40’s to 50’s. Maintaining proper dress was an issue as we alternated between extreme physical exertion during drills and maneuvers only to immediately stand down for AAR, discussion and instruction. It was a constant effort trying not to sweat to death or alternately freeze. I wore mostly standard mil issue clothing with light weight under armor type cloth next to the skin to wick as much moisture away as possible. Gen III layer 3 and layer 4 for when we were exercising and my British smock when we were static.

I went through the many of same issues in the January CTT class and tried to improve but we didn’t have to deal with the warmer day temps then. It was still a struggle and you just need to deal with being hot or cold during the evolutions. Find the best quality gear to meet the weather and adapt to manage the heat.

Physical conditioning:

PT, PT and more PT.  Yes we hear it all the time. You don’t have to be an athlete to take Max’s classes but the more realistic you are about your physical condition the better. Although I made it through CTT in pretty good shape I was definitely slowed down by sore legs by the end so I wanted to be in better shape for the CP class. All the class areas outside the initial square ranges are on the slopes and draws in the West Virginia foothills. The better leg strength and endurance you have the better you will do in class and in later practical applications if ever needed. I made it is all I can say, and in better shape after more physical exertion than at CTT. I’ll tell you now there is only one direction that is certain at MVT and that is up and you will be walking it with weight. If you are attending, get out and walk hills or even stairs with a weighted pack to work your legs and make the class more productive.

Team work, team cohesiveness, leadership:

Throughout the weekend our teamwork improved in leaps and bounds after our first drills. We became better at maneuver and fire in each evolution but it really illustrated the difficulties of throwing together an ad hoc force of essentially then amateur’s and asking them to conduct a mission. In real life I think more pre-mission coordination would need to be worked out and trained even briefly. Who does what; element leadership, communication and team training etc. were takeaways.

During the drills we had team leaders assigned and they fundamentally stayed the same throughout the class for all the evolutions. This worked fairly well until the night reconnaissance patrol where we were essentially unsupervised by cadre. During that patrol we had a lot of discussion of what we were trying to attempt in the mission and how we were going about it. Personality styles came out. The evolution was unscripted and the decision making process was our own. This led to a lot of conflicting opinions during the conduct of the recon on the best course of action when we met with obstacles. Once again it illustrated to me the results of an ad hoc force and what can be overcome by at least familiarity with your teammate’s capabilities. Team training, communications, capabilities are what I really took away from that portion of the night.

Night movement and Situational awareness:

During the night recon we had a fairly bright night from the moon. Navigating the woods was easy once your natural night vision kicked in. The ground was covered with dry leaves that made travel noisy and difficult on the slopes. Our patrol had one night vision device (NOD) and honestly we use it minimally. We found that even though the base we reconnoitered had a fire going that the fire obscured our vision as well as the target vision. It interfered with the NOD and our natural night vision. A simple pair of binoculars would have served us better for observation after clearing the area for sentries with the NOD’s.

Sentries would have been an issue for our patrol but none were in the scenario. We were able to maneuver within 10-15 yards of our target even with the bright moonlight. I was a bit shocked hearing in the debrief that we got away with that portion of the recon undetected so I’ll definitely count that as a plus. Students that have taken CP before stated they have done the patrol in total can’t see your hand in front of your face darkness. I can see how that would be tough especially in unfamiliar terrain. Takeaways were; don’t rely on technology because it can be a hindrance, even a drawback if it fails and you are overly relying on it. Second, get familiar with your AO in daytime and nighttime.

Appreciation of process:

MVT took us through the entire planning process and conduct of a patrol. It gave me a realistic view of what it would take to conduct regular security operations during an event. I came away with a lot to think about in terms of planning and conduct of even basic security operations in my area with a greater appreciation of the training, planning and assets required to conduct even basic ops.

MVT runs a great program. This being my third class I always amazed at how much you get out of it. It’s a lot of info and training packed into three days and it does warrant a return trip. Max runs a professional school with great facilities, not hot coffee and donuts but balls to the wall realistic training that you really can’t get anywhere else.  My fellow students were probably some of the best people I’ve ever met and his training staff is top notch; Scott is the fourth staff member I’ve met and probably one of the best. As a First Sergeant he is everything you would want from a senior NCO, a combination Dutch uncle, drill sergeant and grandfather. He made the class for me. I’ll be back for more, hopefully bringing some like-minded folks with me.