Student Review: Combat Team Tactics 17-19 Oct: Tom

CTT Oct 14

I attended the October 2014 Combat Team Tactics (CTT) class. When I signed up for the three days of training it was at the time designated as RMP/CRCD (Rifle Manipulation Primer/Combat Rifle Combat Drills). RMP/CRCD have since been combined into one three day class, CTT. The CTT class as it is now structured, provides the student with one day of square range tactical carbine instruction and drills, and two subsequent days of individual and small unit training.

The first day on the square range covered range safety, zeroing the rifle, extensive instruction and drills in rifle malfunctions and how to clear them, and finished with individual and group tactical movements and contact drills. The second and the third days were conducted entirely on the tactical ranges. We were trained in react to contact drills at the individual level, then progressing to buddy pairs, teams, and finally the squad level. The specifics of the drills and maneuvers have been thoroughly described in other student reviews, and in publications such as Contact! which is an excellent companion reference for this training. I thus won’t try to give a detailed explanation of those things, but I would like to give you my perspective on why I think you and the people important to you need to go and attend this training.

You can get pretty much all of the content of the CTT class by reading ‘Contact!’ and similar manuals. Reading a book is a form of training, but it’s not “training” in a real world sense. I frequently run into this problem when trying to motivate other people in my community to seek training. This isn’t “training” in the corporate world sense where you read a book and maybe even go listen to a lecture, and might say afterwards ‘we got trained on the new employee reimbursement policy’. “TRAINING” (let’s use all capital letters to distinguish the let’s sit in a coffee shop and “train” on tactics, vs TRAINING yourself to be able to do it for real) in the sense I’m talking about means actually being able to fill a role and to perform a variety of actions on-demand, under stress, in non-ideal conditions. “Training” in that sense means that you read the books and get lectures as the starting point. Attending an MVT class though, completes the TRAINING you need to learn the concepts, and TRAIN yourself to be able to carry them out. Max and his cadre use the well-proven crawl-walk-run training methodology, wherein you begin by learning the concepts, then practice them at slow speed without external distractors, and progressively with each exercise repetition work on performing the drills more quickly and with fewer and finally no (hopefully) errors, in the face of growing physical stress. That, my friends, is what TRAINING is, and that’s what you get at MVT. Yes, it’s uncomfortable at times and can make you feel nervous and puny. If one is serious in purpose about wanting to be able to protect your family, then I don’t see how you could accept anything less than to learn and drill up to something like this level of proficiency. Education and “training” are useful and have their places, but “TRAINING” and being able to actually do it, is what I was seeking.

“Stress inoculation” is one concept that many believe helps one learn to perform better under stress. The idea is simply that if you practice doing things under stress, you’ll adapt to the experience and will learn from it, and you will actually perform better and faster in a real-world stressful situation. Without the experience of having performed under stress, in an unexpected life-threatening situation, the natural human response is to freeze. In the CTT class, students benefit from stress inoculation by repeated exposure to calibrated increments of increasing stress. The entry-level version of this is simply the team malfunction drill on the first day of class. After receiving training lecture and practical exercises on clearing rifle malfunctions, Max broke the class into two teams. One team would go to the bottom of the hill while the other team set up each student’s rifle with a particular malfunction. On the signal from Max, along the lines of “Contact Front!” or “Stand to! Stand to!” each student at the bottom would race to the firing line at the top, attempt to fire the (sabotaged) rifle, and analyze and correct the malfunction in order to engage his or her paper target. It doesn’t sound like a lot of stress, but a set of drills like this shows you the difference between what you think you know, and what you really know. If nothing else, would you care to try this while you’re huffing and puffing from having just run up a small hill? After a number of repetitions, every student was able to get a malfunctioning rifle back into action, expeditiously. I’d say that’s TRAINING not “training”, wouldn’t you?

Things progressed the following day to performing individual “RTR” (see Contact! and the MVT forum for details) react-to-contact drills. MVT has a portion of the tactical range which was constructed for this purpose. The student and instructor are in an area in which pop-up targets can appear anywhere within a more than 180 degree span around the student, not just in front. If nothing else, wanting to appear to be halfway competent in front of the instructor and your fellow students is enough stress on its own to make that simple drill just a little more difficult than it would be if you were doing it alone in your backyard. That’s a good thing, get used to the feeling, adapt to it, perform the drill well enough, and progress. The physical and mental stress increases as the day goes on, and students become mentally stronger and more adept at the techniques through this. I have several years of experience as a military instructor (former U.S. Navy submarine officer who served in roles of nuclear operator and as an nuclear instructor, and in nuclear weapons security), and as an instructor/faculty in my post-Navy life. This post is about the MVT training, so I mention my background only to give a bit of professional weight to my observations of Max, Chris, and the MVT training program while they were instructing us. I’ll simply say that although I may not be the highest speed firearms guy myself, I recognize and appreciate professionalism wherever I see it, and the MVT operation is totally professional at imparting this TRAINING to the students. The MVT cadre certainly did a great job of that in the several days we had, in training us and molding a mixed-experience group of guys into small teams with an ability to work together and function as a small unit. This knowledge and experience is exactly what I was hoping to learn, and I’m most satisfied with the CTT class experience.

The best compliment I think I can give to Max and his cadre is to say I’ll be back for more TRAINING before long. I think it’s significant that in our CTT class of nine attendees, three were repeat attendees, and one of those three was taking CTT for the third time. You wouldn’t see that if the quality of the TRAINING experience, the instructor cadre, and the training facilities wasn’t top-notch. Although I think I got through the CTT class respectably, I know I have room to improve. Doing, perhaps falling short, and doing better the next time around are part of TRAINING, no? I look forward to repeating CTT (and eventually the Patrol class, as well) with more people from my community, and improving my own abilities towards a goal of completing each CTT drill without mistakes. If you are concerned that your family and perhaps your community may need the ability to provide defense and protection, you should consider attending a class such as CTT at MVT. There are many training operations running where you can learn crucial individual skills, but very few with the team and small unit skills that many people think could be important someday.

One last thing comment about PT. Max, as does pretty much every other serious trainer, tells you to “up your PT”. I’m fortunate to have a PT training partner back home (a retired soldier) and have been running/biking several times a week for the past couple of years. Being in aerobic shape, as I understand it, is being able to exert significantly and steadily for periods of 30-60+ minutes. Being aerobically conditioned will help a lot. However, one “up my PT” thing which I am adding to my exercise program after taking CTT is “anaerobic conditioning” – things like 25 yard dashes at full speed. I absolutely hate that stuff, to me it hurts and is uncomfortable. Well, suck it up, the point is to use your opportunities and time now, and to do the best you can to strengthen yourself if you ever need to draw on these skills. I’ve never been in combat. But, the live-fire training experience at MVT was realistic enough to make me realize I need to improve my ability to properly do 3-5 second rushes without dying of exhaustion. “Up your PT” sounds like what every in-your-face instructor will tell you. One of the things I appreciate about Max and his cadre is that their passion truly is to TRAIN us, not to get in our faces and tell us we suck like a DI in the movies would do (I don’t know about you but I got enough of that back in my service days). Getting this valuable information about my conditioning from Max is part of what I’m talking about. TRAIN with Max and Chris (and Aaron, who we did not meet), and you may get the thumbscrews of more motivation/try harder tightened on you, but you’ll also get the information you need to be more effective. How’s that for TRAINING!?

A very satisfied student – Tom