Student Review: Combat Team Tactics April 2015: Palmetto
I’m getting this posted a lot later than I intended – so apologies for that. This was my second training attendance at MVT. My first training was Combat Rifle back in November, 2014 – I invite folks to go back in the student reviews to read my AAR on that course – there is a lot of good info there that I won’t take space to repeat in this review.
The first day of Combat Team Tactics (CTT) is an intense, condensed version of Combat Rifle. The first day lays a solid foundation of basics upon which the rest of the weekend is built: zeroing, malfunction drills, movement, react to contact (RTR drills) and a ton of other information and advice. If there are problems with your rifle, they will be exposed and evident on this day – which is good – it allows the student to fix problems and get things squared away for the next two days. For instance, one student had chronic malfunctions with his weapon on Day One but Max was able to work with him and diagnose the problem and the student was able to make adjustments that allowed him to operate smoothly the next two days.
Day Two and Day Three are spent on the tactical ranges which are over the hill, away from the square range and parking area. Students are shuttled to the tactical range four at a time in an ATV. You will not have access to your vehicle during these days so you take everything you need with you when you shuttle. Max provides drinking water and primitive latrines. The lecture periods are held in the “schoolhouse” which is a covered shelter with comfortable, folding, camp chairs and a whiteboard.
The tactical training is progressive. The segments are first described in lecture then there will be a demonstration and/or dry-run before moving to live fire. Each segment builds on the previous. Most progressions start as individual movements then go to buddy pair movements then go to four man team movements. I won’t go into a lot of detail on the movements because that is well covered in the course description and plenty of other student reviews.
The course is challenging and demanding both physically and mentally. I don’t care who you are – Gomer Pyle or Sgt. Rock – you will be heavily taxed both physically and mentally by this course. But the flip side to that coin is that, no matter who you are, Gomer Pyle or Sgt. Rock, you can complete the course and you will greatly benefit from it.
The course is tough physically. You will be running up and down hills, over leaves, rocks, mud, sticks, logs and everything else one can expect to find in the woods. You will be squatting, ducking and diving for cover then jumping back up to run a few more yards. You will be carrying more weight than most people are used to carrying, especially while running around. Several loaded magazines, water, a rifle, medical kit, some rations may not be too much of a load hanging off your belt or vest while standing in your living room; but try lugging that stuff around for hours while running around in the woods and those pounds start to feel like tons by the end of the day. Just try holding an 8 or 10 pound rifle all day, lifting it up to sight targets over and over, while breathing hard – it’s a lot different from plinking on the square range back home.
So then do you have to be a PT stud to do this course? There is a danger in both over-emphasizing and under-emphasizing the need for being in shape to take CTT training. Obviously, the better shape you are in the better you will perform and the more you can concentrate on learning the skills rather than gasping for air and moving your limbs. You don’t need to be a PT stud but you also don’t want to be a slob who never walks farther than from the couch to the fridge. Just try to be in the best shape that YOU can be in. Here is where you can really trust Max. He knows how to gauge a student’s limits and he knows how to push a student to the limits of their capabilities but not beyond.
On a personal note, my PT level was pretty low when I attended Combat Rifle in November. I learned a lot in CR about the skills I needed to work on and the PT improvements I needed to make. When I returned five months later for CTT I was in much better shape in both skills and PT. So was my PT top notch for CTT? Heavens no! Those WV hills kicked my tail and had me sucking wind like I was on a ventilator – it was ragged and ugly. I could have put off going to CTT and done PT for another year but I didn’t want to wait; to me it was more important to get the training while I still had the opportunity and I believe I made the right choice. Max recognized what my limits were and he pushed me to my limits but not beyond. Note that I did NOT say Max took it easy on me, not at all. He just didn’t beat me beyond what I could recover from.
Some final thoughts/advice on PT: Don’t put off taking CTT until you think you are in good enough shape; go ahead and sign up for a class now a few months out and use the time you are waiting to get in as good of shape as you can. Having a hard date on the calendar is a strong motivator to get off your tail and do your PT. I found that the CTT course hit me hard physically in two areas: my wind/cardio and my thigh muscles and I attribute both to dealing with the hills. A consistent, 2 to 6 month regime of burpees, squats and hill sprints should get the average Joe up to snuff enough to hack it. Max also offers several PT conditioning plans designed by an Olympic trainer who is also an MVT alum.
When you are at MVT for training you are being totally immersed and saturated in weapons training and team tactics. It is a whole different world. You are in the woods, wearing your gear, surrounded by like-minded folks, shooting combat rifles all day long for three days. You won’t know how much you change over those days until you return home and realize that you won’t be getting up, putting on your gear and shooting all day with your buddies – you are going to seriously miss it and you will start planning to go back for more training.
Like I said, you will want to come back for more. There are plenty of progression training courses available to come back for but let me put in a plug for doing repeat courses. While I did not repeat a course per se, I did complete Combat Rifle and come back for Combat Team Tactics. The first day of CTT is a condensed version of CR and all the reloads, manipulations and malfunctions drills are the same. I absorbed a lot of instruction in CR but when material was repeated in CTT I experienced a deeper, more internalized understanding and ownership of the instruction. Realizing this, it’s becoming a dilemma for me to decide whether to repeat CTT or move forward with Combat Patrol.
Let me mention a bit about the importance I see in getting this training. As I mentioned, when you are at MVT you are immersed in a different world. The weekend I was at CTT was the weekend of the Baltimore riots. Getting news of the riots while we were there in training was strange and surreal to me. But it also emphasized the point that what happened in Baltimore and Ferguson could now easily happen anywhere in the country at any time. In times of large-scale civil unrest you will not be adequately prepared to defend your family, home or neighborhood just having had conventional, concealed-carry, handgun defense training. If you face civil unrest or even a limited “without rule of law” situation, you will be in a much better position to prevail with MVT CTT training under your belt. But now is the time to get the training – if you wait until the wolf is at the door, it’s too late.
I’ll end with this: CTT is tough and demanding. MVT is a serious training facility teaching serious skills. This isn’t a fantasy camp and Max isn’t there to coddle you or be your buddy. You will work hard and stretch your limits. But the payoff is that, after you complete the course, you will feel a very real sense of accomplishment, growth and confidence that very few people experience and that only comes from hard effort working under expert instruction. MVT truly offers a remarkable opportunity and a remarkable value.